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3 years ago
WELLNESS – A Perspective
At one level Wellness can be though of as present good health, vitality and mental well-being. One definition being:-
- Wellness is NOT just the absence of Disease
- Wellness is about having the energy to live life to the fullest
- Wellness is about getting up in the morning with energy
- Wellness is about sleeping well
- Wellness is about navigating life’s stressors with relative ease
- Wellness is about the ability to make choices without a hindrance from your body
Dr. Marcia Smith
However, I prefer to extend this to see Wellness as an investment in future health and quality of life, in retirement in one’s senior years.
It has become conventional wisdom to believe that the debilitating conditions we associate with ageing (these are well enough known, maybe through personal family experience, to need me to elaborate here) are a normal condition and nothing can be done about it apart from palliative care, to manage symptoms and give the best quality-of-life possible in the circumstance.
This is not, in fact, the case and I will return to this subject later.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) tracks the effect of health in the elderly and publishes a statistic – called The Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE. The interpretation of this term is strictly – a complex function – but in simple terms can be thought of as defining the population’s “healthy” life expectation, as distinct from the normal Life Expectancy figure, often used as a measure of national health.
The term is illustrated diagrammatically above. The zone on the left labled “A” can be considered as the expectation of healthy life span- the zone on the right, marked “C”, indicating of course death. The shaded zone marked “B” is usually called the Disability Zone – A period of life where health is impaired to the extent that independent living is no longer possible and daily care is required from family or increasingly institutional care – in Aged Care Facilities.
In the Western countries the average DALE is around 72 years this is in contrast to the normal life expectancy of around 80 years. This implies that on average around 8 years of life coping with serious disability is to be expected.
So is the degeneration with age a natural consequence of the design of the human body? The answer would appears to be clearly no. Both archaeological and anthropological research shows that the primitive hunter gatherer societies from which we spring do not exhibit anything like the same degree of health problems as the people age. Sure these societies experienced high levels of infant deaths (possibly infanticide) and deaths from infection and trauma – but for the survivors – old age did not being the health problems we experience (until- that is they are exposed to the Western diet).
It has taken millennium for Public Health and Medical science, to undo (in part) the damage done by the agricultural and industrial revolutions – to restore the stature and life expectancy (in the more affluent Western Societies) to those experienced by the Hunter Gatherers. So its only in recent decades that serious improvement has been registered. Unfortunately current statistics do not fully represent the effects of the post-industrial diet of fast and packaged foods – experimental high intensity and GM farming practices.
It has been remarked that we are using our children as guinea pigs and for the first time we have a generation of children who are not expected to match our life expectancy.
The diagram above gives an illustration of what has happened. Although representing the Netherlands – this can be taken as typical of Western Societies. This diagram shows (in orange) the effect of lifestyle factors (diet) on Healthy life expectancy – this study attributes something in the region of 8 years to (preventable) lifestyle related ill health. But until relatively recently the lifestyle effects have been masked by the impact of infective diseases in earlier years. Now over the last few decades Public Health solutions have swept these away exposing the effects of these lifestyle issues.
This study has been fairly neutral in predicting the future effects of our lifestyle – it does not suggest that improvements are possible nor that we may in fact be continuing to exacerbate the problem. Certainly it has been commented that we are treating our children as guinea pigs and current children are unlikely to live as long as their parents – for the first time ever
So what’s wrong? Basically we are not genetically adapted to our staple foods (wheat, potatoes, beans etc). The potential for our health problem has existed for millennium since the first settlements with farming and domestication of crops and animals).
Compounded by industrial age food processing (milling of flour and rice, canning. preserving etc) then in more recent years – intensive farming practices – selection of crops for appearance and transportability rather than nutrition, green harvesting, increased processing.
The underlying problem being the need to feed an increasingly urbanised population – which requires the transportation of food to the urban centres from increasing distances (even half way round the world) with disaterous consequences to actual nutrition. And of course the chronic decline in nutrition and its effects have been hidden until the last few decades by the high level of deaths from infectious diseases. The effects of centuries if not millennium of degradation of our diet is now exposed.
It can be argued that the situation we are now in is a direct result of our path to civilisation and culture – and is the price we have to pay for the enhanced lifestyle we now have. Is this situation inevitable?
Modernization Disease Syndrome
“Four lines of evidence – laboratory, clinical, epidemiological and biochemical – indicate that much, if not most, of our illness in modern societies during the past 100 years – excluding the effects of normal aging – has resulted from changes in lifestyle factors involving exercise, stress, smoking, drugs, pollutants and especially a multiplicity of interacting dietary modifications which have not heretofore been evaluated for their collective effect.”
He names the collection of illnesses which result from these changes the modernization disease syndrome since these conditions do not emerge in traditional societies “until one or two decades after they undergo modernization.” A variety of dietary deficiencies “can produce the diverse set of illness manifestations comprising what I call the modernization disease syndrome, which now dominates our health picture and is our current #1 public health hazard lying behind a wide variety of illnesses weakening the fabric of society.”
“This is not a minor problem. The real costs – economic and human – of the modernization disease epidemic exceed that of any World War.”
Quotations from “Unsafe on Any Diet: Medical Monopoly and the Modern Health Disaster” written by Donald O. Rudin, MD. Dr. Rudin, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, was long-time Director of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute in Philadelphia.
It is clearly not feasible to return to the hunter gather diet we are genetically adapted to – it would just not be practical to produce and deliver enough such food to meet the demands of our population. Nor given our sedentary life style could we actually eat enough such food to gain the nutrition our ancestors did.
However, dietary intervention is possible – the nutritional deficiencies can be made up by suitable nutritional supplementation.
the diagram above illustrates the results on an on-going (now in its 13 year) longitudinal study into intervention with a glyconutrient based supplementation regime. The study is conducted by Gilbert R. Kaats, Ph.D. and shows that the decline in the biomarkers of vitality (aging)
* – Lean body mass
* – Strength
* – Basal metabolic rate
* – Body-fat percentage
* – Aerobic capacity
* – Blood-sugar tolerance
* – Cholesterol/HDL
* – Blood pressure
* – Bone density
* – Body-temperature regulation
can be arrested and even reversed by dietary intervention.
This diagram uses a somewhat relaxed form of the DALE – one which recognises health impacts on life without actually defining total dependency. This measurement accommodates still independent people, maybe suffering from chronic pain, depression, maybe not too mobile, or able to hold down a full time job. This condition is reached on average some 10 years earlier than the full blown DALE. The upper line (green) shows the trend line determined from testing thousands of volunteers over a 13 year period. These results suggests that early intervention has the potential to add many years of quality life and counter the health problems associated with ageing. This research is continuing and additional analysis of available data being undertaken.
The above dissertation is my own interpretation of the information I have considered. You may or may not agree with my assessment – just leave your comments in the Guest Book. The evidence suggests starting intervention early, 40s & 50s, gives the best results – I left it a little late – still better late than never – what about you?
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