If Only My Doctor Asked These 3 Questions
At first it may seem this column is a criticism toward your local doctor but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I can’t think of anyone more passionate and committed to helping people live longer, better lives than your family doctor. What this column is about is that our poor doctors are overloaded; their offices are crowded and their schedules are overbooked.
I remember a visit to a physician’s office and seeing a sign that said, “only 2 complaints per visit.” Within these short appointments quick diagnosis, difficult and potentially life changing decisions are made. I can’t imagine being in their shoes having to make such difficult decisions with only the information gathered in a moment or a one-time snapshot of a recent test. The following three questions may help you avoid many future doctor visits and improve the care you receive by your family doctor. By ensuring the basic practices of good health are in place you will improve their ability to accurately diagnose any ailment you may be feeling.
How much water do you consume on a daily basis?
In my experience as a fitness professional I can tell you after seeing thousands of clients that few meet the standard recommendation of 8 glasses of water per day. What’s worse is this isn’t even enough. The mathematical equation we used in our studios for our base recommendations was: 0.6oz per pound of bodyweight per day. For most people this will be approximately 3-4L of water per day.
Consider our environment, it’s actually very difficult to maintain hydration here in Alberta because of the sometimes rapid dramatic change in temperature and the cool air masks our feeling of thirst. Additionally coloured, artificially sweetened beverages as well as caffeinated drinks cause further dehydration and further increase our need for more water.
The physical effects of dehydration can begin at as little as a 2% loss of body water. Given that our body is mostly water if you’ve ever jumped on the scale from morning to night or experienced a notable fluctuation in 24 hours you see just how easy it can be to lose 2% body water. (ex. 150lb person who loses 3lbs in 24hrs has lost more than 2% body weight, mostly water and could be dangerously dehydrated.)
Statistically some studies suggest that as much as 80% of the North American population could be dehydrated on an ongoing basis. The most common and immediate symptoms of dehydration include: headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, constipation and if severely dehydrated diarrhea. Long-term effects of dehydration have been directly linked to negative moods and ongoing feelings of fatigue, a very common complaint in North America. I always told my clients if you only learned one thing from me and I never seen you again drinking more water will have the biggest impact on your life from improved health to an immediate improvement in energy and even flexibility it’s true what they say, water is vital!
How many hours of sleep do you get on average?
We’re always busy and always in a hurry, I don’t know about you but getting enough sleep is difficult for me. Our body works on hormonal cycles, our hormones control everything and have a very direct link to long term health. Without adequate sleep at consistent times each day our hormonal patterns can vary greatly. As hormonal production and patterns are compromised so is our health, perhaps most notably affected would be the repair recovery function of our immune system. Missing sleep is a sure way to sickness.
WebMD reports that too little sleep is linked to a lot of significant health concerns. Lack of sleep, much like dehydration, has its deep links to depression and mental fatigue. Additionally it’s also linked to serious ailments like heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and even diabetes. This looks a lot like the top mortality causes for North America all linked to one thing within our control. Because of its effect on hormones, lack of sleep is also linked to loss of libido, deterioration of our skin and even weight gain.
How many times do you eat each day?
Perhaps this question is the one that I hold the most dear as it’s what I had dedicated a significant portion of my life to as a personal trainer and weight loss coach. After reviewing thousands of food journals I can tell you with certainty 9 out of 10 people are not eating nearly ENOUGH; and if you are most often it’s because you're consuming processed food or food of poor nutritional value which is even worse than not eating enough.
Many people may have heard of BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) but fail to realize that’s the base calculation of energy required in 24 hours before any activity whatsoever. If you exercise on a semi-regular basis at all it’s a safe assumption to add 600-1000 calories per day to your BMR to be in the realm of adequate caloric intake. The desire to lose weight has people naturally thinking they need to reduce, restrict, burn even more but without adequate supply in the first place they only further hamper the body’s ability to function optimally. Think about it like it or not you have to give your car adequate amounts of fuel on a regular basis, the same is true with your body.
With a lack of resources the body has to make difficult decisions, much the same as we do during times of financial distress. And just like us it gets rid of the most expensive items not crucial to survival first, mainly muscle, immune system components and other living tissues that we can survive with less of. Fat is easy and inexpensive to maintain therefore it’s not often used in times of long-term deficit as in the essence of survival it’s packed with long-term reserve energy. If you maintain an emergency supply kit in your home it’s unlikely you use items you’ve run out of when the grocery store is just down the street, you save them for their intended purpose; an emergency.
Don’t wait for your doctor to ask, help them help you by asking yourself these questions every day. It’s my belief that regular attention to these three things could significantly reduce major illness in the world today as we know it.