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7 Health Strategies for 2018

Happy New Year!
Today, we embark on a new year and a fresh start in our continued journey toward better health and happier lives.

7 Healthy Lifestyle Strategies to Implement in 2018

Are you ready to start fresh in 2018? Then read on. The 7 positive changes that follow are the crème de la crème of lifestyle strategies that will allow you to live a longer, healthier life, boosting your happiness and well-being all the while.

1. Give Up Soda

Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver damage, osteoporosis and acid reflux are just some of the health conditions linked to soda consumption.

If you're still drinking soda on a regular basis, committing to swapping it for healthier beverages like water, sparkling water and the occasional cup of tea and/or organic black coffee could be one of the most health-promoting decisions of your life.

When you consume soda your body increases dopamine production, which stimulates the pleasure centers of your brain — a physically identical response to that of heroin, by the way. This explains why so many find it difficult to give up their daily soda fix. It can be done though, and you'll feel better for it. *Do not sub out regular soda for diet soda -diet (low cal/low sugar soda drinks can have neuro toxic effects from aspartame).

2. Eat an avocado every day

Avocados are a rich source of monounsaturated fat your body can easily burn for energy. Because they are so rich in healthy fats, avocados also help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods.

Research has shown that adding avocado to salad allows your body to absorb three to five times more carotenoids, antioxidants that help protect your body against free radical damage.

Avocados also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium and vitamins E and B (including folate). Avocados have a long list of potential health benefits.

Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, research suggests it can help improve your lipid profile, protect against liver damage and inhibit oral cancer cells. I personally have two avocados a day as they fit in perfectly with optimizing mitochondrial health.

3. Get more consistent and regular movement into your life

More than 10,000 published studies confirm that sitting is an independent risk factor for illness and premature death. In fact, inactivity carries a mortality risk similar to that of smoking. It's important to realize that your body is designed for near-continuous movement during the day. Sitting also wrecks havoc on the spine (gravity compression).

Setting a goal of taking 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day (which is just over 3 to 5 miles, or 6 to 9 kilometers) can go a long way toward getting more movement and less sitting into your life. This should be over and above any exercise regimen you may have. In addition, consider a stand-up desk rather than a regular one if you have an office job.

4. Get eight hours of sleep every night

Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which helps explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.

Sleep is also intricately tied to important hormone levels, including melatonin — a potent antioxidant with powerful anti-cancer activity — which is diminished by lack of sleep. Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health.

5. Donate blood and test your vitamin D and Omega-3 levels

These three may be among the most important yet most frequently overlooked health tests out there, and I recommend doing all of them at least once a year.

Donate blood while anemia is a concern for some, a far greater yet less-recognized health hazard is iron overload. In fact, most adult men and non-menstruating women have damaging levels of iron that, if left untreated, can damage your organs and contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and many other disorders.

The serum ferritin test measures your stored iron. I recommend adults get a serum ferritin test on an annual basis. Ideally, your serum ferritin should be somewhere between 20 and 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), definitely no higher than 80 ng/mL. As a general rule, somewhere between 40 and 60 ng/mL is the sweet spot for adult men and non-menstruating women.

When you get your results, be sure to check the actual level as most labs use "normal" levels that are FAR too high for good health. If your iron level is above 80 ng/mL, the solution is to donate blood. Once your levels are normal (and you're not a menstruating woman), continue donating blood two to three times a year.

If ferritin levels are over 200 ng/mL, a more aggressive phlebotomy schedule is recommended. Although your local blood bank may not realize this, recent U.S. legislation allows all blood banks to perform therapeutic phlebotomy for hemochromatosis or iron overload. All you need is a doctor's order.

Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk of a wide variety of ailments and chronic diseases, from cold and flu to diabetes, multiple sclerosis, depression and dementia.

The vitamin D test you're looking for is called 25(OH)D or 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the officially recognized marker of overall D status and is most strongly associated with overall health. An optimal range is between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).

If you live in the U.S., January and February are ideal months to find out if your vitamin D levels are low. As for raising your levels, sensible sun exposure is the ideal way. However, winter and indoor work prevent most people from achieving ideal levels from sunlight alone.

In that case, make sure to supplement with vitamin D3 (not synthetic D2), and increase your vitamin K2 as well, either from food or supplementation.

Omega-3 fats are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) your body needs for digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, visual acuity, memory and much more. They're particularly important for proper cell division and function of cell receptors (essentially every cell in our body relies on proper ratios of essential omega-3 fatty acids).

Low concentrations of the marine animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA have been shown to accelerate cognitive decline and increase your risk of death from all causes. Omega-3 deficiency is thought to be an underlying factor of about 100,000 premature deaths each year.

This is where testing comes in handy. Getting your level tested is the best way to customize your dosage to ensure sufficiency, because requirements for omega-3 vary depending on your lifestyle, such as your intake of fatty fish and level of physical activity.

6. Eat more fiber

Most Americans need to eat more fiber. A high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, likely because it helps to reduce your risk of some of the most common chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Researchers have also found that short-chain fatty acids produced by bacteria that feed on plant fiber are major epigenetic communicators. In other words, they actually communicate with your DNA, thereby providing protection against disease. 

When it comes to boosting your fiber intake, be sure to focus on eating more vegetables, nuts and seeds (not grains), steel cut oats, figs, dates, etc. Recent research confirms that in order to work, the fiber must be unprocessed. Tip: try to include the fruits skin on your consumption -very high in fiber.

7. Go American “grass-fed certified” and/or “wild caught"

When buying beef, dairy, poultry and pork, make sure it's grass-fed or pastured in accordance to organic standards. Recent research published in the British Journal of Nutrition found clear differences between organic versus conventional milk and meat. Said to be the largest study of its kind, the researchers analyzed 196 and 67 studies on milk and meat respectively.

Echoing previous studies, the largest difference in nutritional content was its fatty acid composition, certain essential minerals and antioxidants. Organic grass-fed and grass-finished meats are also free of antibiotics and other drugs used in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). With antibiotic-resistant disease being a major public health hazard, buying organic meats is an important consideration.

One way to reduce your protein consumption is to trade out some of your beef for fish. Cold-water fish such as Alaskan salmon and sardines also provide healthy fats, including omega-3. Just be sure the fish is responsibly harvested, wild-caught and not farmed, and is low in mercury and other pollutants. And on the “never eat” fish list should be tilapia -it is a farm-raised, grain fed fish that leads to inflammation in the body.

Remember, most New Year's resolutions fail for one reason or another. So, this year, try making a simple commitment to live healthier from here on out. Start small and go slow, as little changes can make a big overall difference in your health. And, when you commit to a lifestyle, it's no longer about meeting a particular goal, like losing 10 pounds. It's about living a little bit differently, a little bit better, so that ultimately you're happier and healthier for it. 

A new habit takes repetition and effort. Keep stepping  forward. Don’t give up. You and your health are worth it!

Have a blessed 2018!

Yours in health,

Dr. David Mason

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