The Christmas season is a good time to pause and reflect on the blessings we have received.
For most of us who enjoy well-being and remain in good shape—save perhaps for a few minor health issues—it’s worthwhile to ponder the following:
1) Good health is a gift. Some people are naturally gifted with good genes—no genetic “factory defects” that make them predisposed to some forms of illness. Many diseases are hereditary.
Genetic predisposition, however, does not mean one will certainly develop the disease. It’s still an interaction between genes and the environment.
Environment factors consist mainly of one’s lifestyle habits—diet, physical activity, stress level, social interaction, etc.
If one has some diseases that are quite common in the family, one must avoid the lifestyle risk factors that can make one predisposed to that disease.
For example, if the family has a history of lung and heart diseases, or cancer, smoking and similar risk factors must be avoided.
2) Good health is a choice we make. Every day, we make thousands of small decisions and choices. And the majority of these choices can impact our health—our fitness, well-being, vigor and overall medical condition.
If we want to maintain good health, we must make an effort to make wise choices consistently in what we eat, drink, think and do.
From the time we wake up to the time we sleep, we’re always challenged to make unwise decisions, like foregoing breakfast or skipping our exercise because we’re in a hurry. We wake up later than we should because we stay late at night watching Netflix or checking our social media accounts.
Our default setting is usually unhealthy habits. We should reverse it by constantly choosing what’s healthy.
3) Good health requires good stewardship. Our health is a gift, but it’s not for us to squander. We’re the stewards of our health. Many times we’ve seen patients who live a reckless, unhealthy lifestyle, and when they develop end-stage diseases, they pray that they be healed, with a pledge to be more careful about their health.
If we’re gifted with good health, we must be good stewards of it, because we’ll likely lose it if we’re not. In many instances, we’re not given second chances.
4) We can be in the “Blue Zone” of good health wherever we live. The so-called “Blue Zones” are places in the world where people have been reported to live much longer than the average. The areas labeled as Blue Zone are Sardinia in Italy; Nicoya in Costa Rica; Icaria in Greece; and the Adventist community in Loma Linda, California.
They are called Blue Zones not for some favorable geographical factors peculiar to these areas, but because of six shared characteristics and lifestyle among residents, which are likely responsible for their enhanced longevity.
These are their shared practices and attitudes:
They have close-knit families and they put family concern ahead of other priorities in life.
Smoking is least prevalent in these areas.
They’re either vegetarian or semi-vegetarian, with the majority of their food consumed plant-derived.
They’re more physically active compared to the average residents in other areas, and regular exercise is a norm in their communities.
Social engagement is high and community activities are participated in by most of the residents.
They have a high intake of legumes and nuts.
Dan Buettner, in his book “The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who Lived the Longest” (National Geographic Books) summarizes the “secrets” of the residents in these Blue Zones as follows:
Moderate, regular physical activity
Moderate caloric intake
Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine
Engagement in spirituality or religion
Engagement in family life
Engagement in social life
So, we may be living in Manila, London or South Africa
—it doesn’t matter where
—but if we follow these simple lessons and decide to live a healthier life, then that can be the best Christmas present we can give ourselves and our loved ones.