Have you ever thought about how you will die?
Why did I wake up this morning with that headline in my brain?
Because I recently listened to a great podcast on The Tim Ferriss Show with Dr. Peter Attia, the theme of which is performance enhancement and tracking. That podcast is full of fascinating tidbits of information and ways of looking at things that will entertain and challenge you. But what does that have to do with how you will die?
Longevity vs. enjoyment
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am unusually focused on quality of life and longevity. I spend all day, every day helping people to improve their health, not just for the short-term (to feel better) but also for the long-term (to prevent disease).
In the podcast, Dr. Attia poses a crucial question:
“How do you balance the desire to live longer, to live more years on this earth, with the desire to enjoy them and perform well.”
Longevity isn’t worth much if your quality of life is poor, right?
The extreme point on the longevity end of this spectrum is someone who adheres rigidly to a very restrictive lifestyle to live longer. A good example is this piece on caloric restriction to extend life. There is a great deal of enjoyment to miss out on if you spend an inordinate amount of time preparing, calculating, and analyzing what you eat. Same goes for other behaviours that reduce your risk of death (e.g.: avoiding sidewalks and roads).
The extreme other end of the spectrum, towards enjoying life to the fullest today is someone who does whatever they feel like now, the consequences be damned. A good example is a smoker who rationalizes continuing that habit by telling herself “I’m going to die of something, I might as well enjoy myself until then.” This is also flawed thinking, since once she develops lung cancer she probably won’t find chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and declining independence very fun. As anyone who has had cancer or knows anyone who has had cancer (and isn’t that everyone, really?) can tell you, whatever the outcome, cancer is a chronic disease and is no fun.
Cause of death multiple choice
According to Dr. Attia, once you get to your 40’s, there is an 80% chance you will die from one of:
- Cardiovascular disease (heart attack, heart failure, etc)
- Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
- Neurodegerative disease (most commonly Alzheimer’s dementia)
Therefore, any strategy for longevity must be focused on preventing those diseases!
What do these diseases all have in common?
All of the above are:
- Metabolic diseases: related to metabolism, “the chemical processes by which a plant or an animal uses food, water, etc., to grow and heal and to make energy”)
- Diseases that develop slowly over time
- Highly influenced by lifestyle factors (including nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, etc)
- Diseases that do not exist much in populations without Western influence
So, it seems the problem here is the “Western lifestyle” which focuses more on short-term performance results than long-term balance and health.
What can you do?
“What are the levers you have to pull to live the longest, most productive, high-performing life imaginable?” – Dr. Peter Attia
I’m all about keystone habits – those small changes you can make that pay off big time; low effort, high reward choices that give you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of results.
If you would like to receive my specific, simple, and actionable 5 Keystone Habits for Health delivered to your inbox, signup here! You can also check out my Keystone Habits for Health video here.
And, here is a list of areas to consider that will prevent those 4 major causes of death, including a curated list of my articles relating to each topic:
1. Boost your nutrition
- Sugar is toxic and How to go sugar-free
- What is gluten sensitivity? and How to live gluten-free
- Tips and tricks to make cooking easy and Make cooking easy with the right tools
- The dairy dilemma
2. Exercise regularly and appropriately
3. Solve your sleep problems
- Hungry? You need more sleep!
- The importance of dark at night
- Tips for sound sleep
- Is lack of sleep making you fat?
4. Actively manage stress
- Why not to meditate
- Loosen up with Body Scan meditation
- Quick start guide to meditation
- How to defeat stress in 10 minutes
5. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
6. Supplement smart
- How much vitamin D is best?
- Supplements: Healthy or harmful?
- Why is Snuffaluffagus so healthy?
- The scoop on fish oils
- How much calcium and vitamin D?
7. Invest in your health
Digestion not quite working right? Trouble losing weight? Low energy? Wondering why your list of medications keeps getting longer and longer?
Your health is your most valuable asset!
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