What do you do to maintain optimal health?

In yet another one-way communication of an opinion piece published elsewhere on May 2 that this time wisely prohibited comments, once again I feel compelled to take a positive perspective and begin a productive discussion about what the world has been dealing with for too long. The rage the author had was aimed at those who are anti-vaxxers and anti-science, taking the safe and simplistic stance that if only every person receives the vaccine, we wouldn’t have lost so much. I believe rage toward those few is unproductive. No matter what the political bent of the US mainstream media, it appears nobody wants to discuss the elephant: sustaining an unhealthy lifestyle compromises the immune system, making one a perfect host for a virus. Chronic illness left unmanaged becomes acute illness in a pandemic, which results in a great burden on one’s family, community and the healthcare system.

When I first moved to Cuenca, I saw an obese gringo couple at Supermaxi Las Americas, their cart loaded with booze and snacks. I decided if they were typical of the expat community, I would be keeping to myself. That was an unfair characterization of a large community, so I am asking this question to expat retirees:

Do you make an effort to follow healthy lifestyle practices and take advantage of how living in Ecuador versus North America can better support that lifestyle? For example:

Quantifying metabolic health: Did you know you can walk into a neighborhood lab and order your own blood biomarker test without a doctor’s order? If so, are your results normal, specifically:

A1c measuring blood glucose
hsCRP measuring level of chronic inflammation
Triglyceride/HDL ratio

Nutrition: We are fortunate there is little temptation of ultra-processed foods sold here. However, seed oils sadly are too abundant. Do you avoid those and use fruit oils like avocado? I believe in the benefit of consuming saturated fats. Unfortunately, I have to import those for cooking.

Environmental hormesis: These are positive stressors, sunlight, heat and cold, that activate sirtuins, the longevity genes. We are fortunate in that living near the equator we have more chance to absorb UV-B rays to activate Vitamin D. Cold Cuenca mornings with no furnaces may be chilly but an indoor temperature of 64 is optimal for longevity. The altitude helps too. Visiting Baños for sauna therapy is excellent.

My intent is not to begin a battle about vaccines or which is the superior nutrition practice. I’m saying we cannot vaccinate ourselves out of a pandemic while continuing to be sedentary, consuming foods that create chronic inflammation and prediabetes, conditions you may have but cannot “feel” in the form of discomfort or pain and therefore believe you are metabolically healthy. You’re never too old to change for the better.

Please share your healthy lifestyle practices easily done in Ecuador. If we learn anything from this pandemic, it should be that optimizing one’s health benefits us all.

Sharon McAdams

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