30 May 2017
Your well-being Warrant of Fitness
Retirement is like a big trip – one that you’ve probably been working, saving and looking forward to for most of your working life. It’s an adventure to be enjoyed but how do you think your body and mind are going to handle the road?
You may be fit financially and even physically, but how’s your sense of ‘well-being’?
Recent years have seen a blossoming interest in the origins of human well-being and happiness. We know that happy people live longer and the World Health Organization’s definition of health clearly underscores its importance:
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
In other words, our ‘health’ relies on a lot more than simply keeping fit and eating well. It’s now widely accepted that the ‘systems’ of the human body - nervous, immune, cognitive, skeletal etc can all affect one another; so to look after one, we need to look after them all.
As a result, there’s a rising trend within modern medicine to adopt a more holistic approach to health in order to achieve this ‘complete physical, mental, and social well-being’.
So welcome to our Well-being WOF Checklist. We’ll be presenting this in two parts over the next fortnight. First up - head, gut, and heart.
Let’s check you out.
[ ] Head.
Post-retirement, be prepared to ‘use it or lose it’.
If you’ve held a job where you had to think a lot, then suddenly switch off in your retirement, your brain is going to start slowing down too. Similarly, if you’ve had a very physical job, you’ll need to keep moving after you hang up your boots.
Exercise burns stress hormones - cortisol and adrenalin - causing average levels to decrease. It brings blood to the brain and in doing so, slows down the degradation of cells.
We now know that regular exercise has been scientifically proven to ward off dementia. Vitamin D, fish oil, and magnesium also provide good support.
Ignore depression and/or anxiety at your peril. These illnesses can be extremely damaging to the rest of your body and can have a detrimental effect on your relationships, which you’re going to need now more than ever.
Positive social interaction is vital to healthy cognitive function. We know that loneliness has a strong relationship with poor mental and physical health outcomes. So don’t let this happen – reach out and talk to someone.
[ ] Gut
They say you are what you eat. It’s true.
Eating healthy food, not drinking alcohol, or only drinking at low-risk levels will help you avoid developing long-term health conditions.
But rather than counting calories, focus on nutritionally dense foods that serve your taste buds as well as your cells.
If you’re not being served it could be your gut microbiome talking. That’s the unique bacteria in your gut that aids digestion and effects how nutrients and vitamins are absorbed. There’s increasing awareness of a relationship between the microbiome and diseases like obesity and other metabolic conditions. It’s also a key interface with our immune and nervous systems which means it has a big say in how we ‘feel’.
So pay attention to what you’re eating and listen carefully to how your body responds. If it’s not happy, neither are you. Trialing off certain food groups and/or alcohol can have a profound effect on some people but for long-term dietary modification, get some advice.
Probiotics will help balance your microbiome, and are especially good to take after antibiotics. Plain yogurt is a good source, but make sure you get a brand that is marked with ‘Live and Active Cultures’. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and strong, aged cheese are also good.
Regarding supplements, always take advice, especially before you buy them! It’s always best to focus on diet first and eat organic if you can. If you do go down the supplement road, make sure you buy high quality products.
[ ] Heart
Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in New Zealand encompassing heart attacks, strokes, and blood vessel disease.
High blood pressure is a risk factor so make sure you get this checked regularly and ask to have your heart traced to screen for disease.
If you smoke, stop. If you can’t stop, get some help. Smoking thickens the blood and inflames the arteries and creates the build up of plaque which triggers heart attacks and strokes.
And don’t go thinking it’s too late. Stop smoking for even one year and you decrease your cardiovascular risk.
Get your heart rate up with exercise – this will raise good cholesterol, reduce plaque and improve hypertension. If your heart is strong it can pump more blood with less effort.
If your cholesterol is high, don’t punish yourself by taking away foods that you love. Instead start minimizing them and focus on adding in more nutritionally dense foods. You’ll feel better for it!
In Part 2 of our Wellbeing WOF, we’ll cover Bones, Skin, and some other bits that can be difficult to talk about so make sure you check in for the next check up!
This story was written with advice from: GP, Dr Marcus Bishop; Holistic Health Coach, Patchouli Brinkman; and Personal Trainer, Inga Fillary.
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