The Top Five Threats To Your Health

There are a lot of things which compete for your time and attention these days. In an effort to manage all the demands on your time, you may be tempted to let your health take a backseat. Yet, your health is one of the most precious things you possess and it's vital to your being able to successfully meet the challenges at hand. Here are five areas where your health could be at risk and some steps you can take to counter those threats.

Top Five Threats To Your Health

1. Stress:

You've probably guessed that stress would figure in somewhere on this list. Well, it ranks as number one. What puts stress at the top of the list is the fact that all of the other 4 threats to your health are influenced by the amount of stress in your life.

Nearly everyone is affected by stress, including kids. Sadly, prolonged stress may even start to feel "normal" to you, but there is nothing normal about its effects on your health. When it comes to a dangerous, life-threatening situation, the stress response - that fight, flight or freeze reaction - is healthy and key to your physical survival. But when every day is filled with physical, financial, social or work challenges, the stress response itself becomes a threat to your health and overtime, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol start to break down your body.

If the cause of stress in your life is not modified or removed, it can lead to chronic illness. As shown here, every part of your body is susceptible to the effects of ongoing stress:

  • Digestion: Irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, constipation, weight gain

  • Lungs: Asthma, bronchitis

  • Heart and Circulation: High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart attack, stroke

  • Musculoskeletal System: Arthritis, fibromyalgia

  • Nervous System: Depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder

  • Cognition: Dementia

  • Reproduction: Infertility, erectile dysfunction

  • Immune System: Chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disease

The causes of stress in your life may be easy to pinpoint, like work, finances or family. They may also be less apparent, but may nevertheless leave their mark by making you feel tired and weak or by adding some weight to your waistline. Here's a list of some common stressors:

  • Psychological: Family, finances, work, school/university, major life events

  • Physiological: Infection, accidents, surgery, pain (acute & chronic), repeated intense sports, poor sleep

  • Environmental: Exposure to chemicals & toxins, allergens, mold, noise & air pollution

  • Metabolic: Nutritional deficiencies, prescription medications, inflammation, diets high in fats, sugar or salt, impaired ability to clear toxins

Life is stressful, but the good news is you can counteract stress. Your body is resilient and capable of recovery. Here are a few ways you can start to reduce the ill effects of stress on your health:

  • Get more sleep. Your body repairs itself while you sleep. Adequate sleep - 7-9 hours each night - will enable you to better cope with the stressors in your life.

  • Take just a few minutes to breathe from your belly. Deep breathing increases your oxygen intake, releases tension, and directly counteracts the negative impact of stress on your nervous system. Do this for five minutes each day for 2 weeks and you will have developed a habit that will increase your stress resilience.

  • Take time to eat three healthy meals each day.

  • Take a break from your work or whatever challenge you may be facing and go for a walk or bike ride. Movement, coupled with some fresh air can help you focus more effectively on the challenges at hand.

When faced with too much to do and too little time, you might be tempted to skip meals, workouts and even getting enough sleep. But these three things - along with the breathing exercises - are among the most important ways you can combat stress. Taking time to look for ways to build them into your schedule and keep them there is key to transforming stress.

2. Inflammation:

You don't get far in life without getting a few bumps and scrapes. When your body suffers injury, your immune system quickly jumps into action and produces the familiar signs of acute inflammation: swelling, pain, redness, and heat. This acute inflammatory reaction is a good thing - a normal and necessary part of the healing process. Sometimes, however, the inflammatory response continues unabated. It's then that too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing, resulting in a state of chronic inflammation which can wreak havoc with our health without our even knowing it. Overtime, this can lead to serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer.

The ugly truth about chronic inflammation is the fact that our lifestyles play a major role in the development of this serious condition:

  • Prolonged stress

  • Smoking

  • Poor dietary habits

  • Too much alcohol

  • Obesity

Even things like too little exercise or too much exercise - overexertion - can negatively impact our bodies' ability to resolve acute inflammation properly.

Overtime, these things add up and then interfere with the normal immune response so that the inflammation never stops.

Food allergies also cause low-grade inflammation which overtime can damage the lining of our gut. Similarly, prolonged use of antibiotics can disturb the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, resulting in an inflamed and leaky gut lining. Once the lining of the gut is inflamed, it can become more permeable. Important nutrients aren't absorbed while toxins, pathogens, and other undesirable substances are absorbed and go on to cause inflammation in other parts of the body.

Since chronic inflammation is often silent, it's important to be aware of it's signs. Here are a few common signs:

  • Digestive problems

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Weight Gain - especially increases in your waistline

  • Always feeling hungry

  • Headaches

  • Poor concentration

  • Dazed feeling when you wake up

The good news is that you can heal from chronic inflammation and can take steps to prevent it from rearing its ugly head. Depending upon your symptoms, your health care practitioner may order blood tests to clarify the source of the inflammation. Since chronic inflammation is often caused by more than one factor, true healing necessitates a holistic approach that takes your health, your diet, your relationships, as well as your home and work environments into account.

Many people turn to over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, Ibuprofen, Advil or to prescription medications like steroids for relief. While they all reduce inflammation, they have side effects and fail to treat the underlying cause of the inflammation. Here are a few key changes you can make to reduce inflammation:

  • Cut out inflammatory foods: fast food, sugary foods, high glycemic carbohydrates, processed meats, meats with low quality fat, and foods high in pro-inflammatory fats like Omega 6.

  • If you aren't already taking Omega 3 s