The Five Pillars of the Functional Health Matrix
Pillars refer to a foundation or that upon which everything else is held up by. We can refer to the five pillars of functional health as the foundation of the principles of the comprehensive assessment matrix. They are essentially modifiable lifestyle factors as they interact with an individual’s personal space and environment. They all contribute to a long Healthspan, weight management and the absence of disease.
The Five Pillars of Functional Health
We will look at each one individually, but the five pillars are:
- Sleep and Relaxation
- Exercise and Movement
For each pillar the clinician looks to see if there is a loss of function if that loss can be modified by a treatment plan and if that treatment is sustainable in the long term or effective in the short term and does the evidence support the treatment of the loss of function.
Let’s take a look at each pillar in closer detail.
Sleep and Relaxation
While individuals vary, it is generally agreed that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep and children may need more. Older adults need 7 restful hours of restorative sleep for the body to recover and regenerate.
- A restorative sleep protocol may look like this:
- Turn all lights off including computer monitors
- Stick to a sleep schedule even on weekends
- Engage in something relaxing before bed
- Create a relaxing sleep environment in terms of noise, temperature, light
- Rest on a mattress that is comfortable and use pillows appropriately
- Turn off all electronics before going to bed
- Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine late in the evening
If all else fails, talk to a clinician about adding a short course of Melatonin to the regime. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and is available over the counter as a supplement.
Exercise and Movement
It is no secret that we need to get 150 minutes of exercise per week to maintain overall health and cardiovascular health in particular. Exercise helps control weight; keeps joints lubricated; combats many health-related diseases including diabetes; improves mood, energy and sleep; and may even boost your sex life!
Surprisingly, in the last 100 years, essential nutrient deficiencies have increased drastically. These deficiencies have led to an increase in chronic diseases, specifically due to such lifestyle behaviors as nutrition. About half, or 117 million American adults, have one or more chronic diseases related to poor nutrition or lack of exercise. These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health.
Stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions like excess weight, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive decline, type 2 diabetes, depression, gut problems, asthma, accelerated aging and premature death. Stress does all kinds of horrible things to the body like increasing blood flow when that increase will cause harm, constricting blood vessels, increases the formation of brain lesions, negatively impacts irritable bowel syndrome or heartburn, causes higher rates of depression and anxiety, increases cortisol which also increases blood sugar worsening diabetes, and a sudden stressful event can trigger a heart attack.
Some therapy modalities to decrease stress are maintaining good sleep hygiene, engaging in an exercise program, guided imagery, counseling, meditation, prayer, dance, hobbies or even botanical intervention such as a prescription for the herb Ashwagandha.
Good communication is essential for healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships can lead to problems with your heart, stress, sleep or making lifestyle changes. Good relationships and having a healthy support system have been shown to be consistent with a long healthspan.
Attending to these 5 pillars of lifestyle modification form the basis for functional health intervention.
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