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Live Your Healthiest Life in 2022

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Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper headshot

To live your healthiest life this year is possible. For more than 50 years I’ve been providing science-based recommendations to help prevent illness, promote immunity and improve quality and quantity of life. The most impactful steps in laying the foundation of a healthy life starts with fitness, followed by nutrition and supplementation while properly managing your stress levels. Here are the practical healthy habits I advise my patients to practice for a healthy jumpstart on the new year.

Just by simply moving more you can positively impact your quality and quantity of life. In fact, we evaluated 28,000 patients at Cooper Clinic (21% women) between 49 and 50 years of age. These healthy people were then followed for 25 years and we obtained Medicare data from 65 to 75 years of age.

The only thing we studied was their level of fitness as measured by their treadmill performance, age and gender. We then compared the top 40th percentile level of fitness with those in the bottom 40th percentile. The results showed:

This is one of many studies in which we showed the value of high levels of fitness in preventing disease. Other studies showed up to a 40% reduction in congestive heart failure and up to a 40% reduction in chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis. 

Nutrition and supplementation
While I encourage my patients to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables daily─five is fine but nine is divine─no diet is perfect and supplements can help fill those gaps. I encourage everyone to take a vitamin D supplement. Many known medical conditions have been shown to be related to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation reduces inflammation, reduces auto-immunity, reduces cancer cell growth, improves brain function (clearly related to Alzheimer’s and dementia), improves mood and sleep and reduces the risk of heart disease.

I personally take 7,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily and recommend my patients to take at least 2,000 IU (50 mcg) daily. We have evaluated Cooper Clinic patients’ vitamin D blood levels since 2013 and have tested 45,827 healthy people. In 2013, the vitamin D levels averaged 32.8 ng/mL. After that date, our Cooper Clinic physicians began recommending a daily vitamin containing 2,000 IU of vitamin D. Every year blood levels have increased by about 2 ng/mL, and by 2020 the level was an average of almost 42 ng/mL in our patients.

Cooper Clinic also measures blood levels of omega-3 (71,600 people). We know omega-3 has some unusual characteristics. It is an analgesic (helps control pain), anti-inflammatory (reduces infection), anticoagulant (reduces blood clotting) and has been approved by the FDA as a means of lowering triglycerides (one of the bad fats in our blood). Other potential benefits are it helps fight depression and anxiety, improves eye health and also promotes brain health during pregnancy and early life.

Omega-3 also can improve risk factors for heart disease, including lowering blood pressure levels and, as I stated, lowering triglycerides, which may increase the good, or HDL, cholesterol levels. In addition, omega-3 can improve mental disorders, including mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It has been documented that people with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3. It may be a factor in reducing mental decline in Alzheimer’s and may even prevent deaths from cancer. 

While Cooper Clinic recommends trying to meet your nutritional needs appropriately with food sources first, nutritional supplements can also help bridge the gaps that diet alone cannot. I eat fish, preferably salmon, two to three times a week. I take two (1,400 mg) Cooper Complete Advanced Omega-3 softgels twice a day—two at breakfast and two with dinner (which provides a total of 1,440 mg EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid] and 960 DHA [docosahexaenoic acid]). This keeps my omega-3 blood level around 10% or 11%. Another reason I take omega-3 is because of its analgesic property. After fracturing my leg in 2004 while snow skiing, I find I have pain if I don’t take this level of omega-3 daily. 

Manage stress
Improper management of stress can lead to behaviors that can have a serious impact on your health such as overeating, excess alcohol consumption, tobacco use and lack of quality sleep. Stress can raise blood pressure and resting heart rate and lead to weight gain. Every single one of these things can cause cardiovascular disease. If these factors go untreated, long-term stress can cause even more medical problems.

Given the impact stress can have on your body, both physically and emotionally, managing stress is a component of my 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™. While stress is a natural part of everyone’s lives, it is important to remember it’s not stress that kills, but the way you manage it.

If you haven’t taken a long look at the stressors in your life, I suggest you begin today. Any type of sustained physical activity as short as 30 minutes several times a week can have beneficial effects on your overall mental and physical health. This is exactly why I recommend efforts to promote physical activity be prioritized by public health agencies and incorporated into routine medical care.

Fitness, nutrition, supplementation and stress reduction are the building blocks of prevention and ultimately, the quality and quantity of life. Find ways to practically incorporate these immune-boosting measures in your routine to live your healthiest life in the coming year.

Your health is your responsibility—not your physician’s, your insurance company’s or the government’s. Remember, regular physical activity is the foundation of any good preventive medicine program. No drug can replicate the benefits of an active lifestyle!

Click here to learn more about Dr. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized™.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Founder and Chairman Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH.