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  • Claire Brandon

What is fueling your body for long term health?

When we consider “long term” health, often longevity literature is focused on living to be a centurion, meaning at least your 100th birthday. That might seem like a long time or not to you, but the major factor I consider as a physician is your quality of life. If you’re alive but not able to do what you want to do, is it really living? Let’s break this down into 3 major components: Mental strength, physical strength, and sleep.

Living a high quality life requires your active choice of participation in fueling your body for the long term.

Mental strength. As a physician specialized in psychiatry, I like to consider mental strength as the real foundation to every other aspect of health. If you’re struggling to help yourself in actively fueling your body for long term health due to trauma, anxiety, depression, addiction, those things must be treated first before you have a good shot at next level changes for your long-term. So first you need to take it seriously if you have any primary mental health issues, see a psychiatrist and work on a treatment plan for those. If you have taken stock of your life and you don’t feel you’re in need of professional help, let’s look at factors that can seriously impact your long term mental strength. First, resilience. Many people believe that you are born with a certain amount of resilience, but that’s just not the case. You build it just like any other muscle. How? Everyone is different but in my experience, two aspects can help improve this, gratitude and mindfulness. Taking stock daily of what you are grateful for really helps realign your brian with things that are going well. What do you have today that you didn't have 10 years ago? What have you accomplished that you can give yourself credit for? I like a daily practice in the morning of writing 5 things I feel grateful for, big or small. For me this ranges from being my own boss to having a great cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be major but it needs to be acknowledged. Mindfulness is very similar, it’s creating awareness. But in mindfulness we’re looking at our experiences and emotions while reserving judgment. Just because you have an emotion doesn’t mean you have to be defined by that emotion. We can be mindful in observing and letting it go. 


The second part of mental strength to work towards is building a positive outlook on life. I’m not asking you to say everything is puppies and rainbows, but look at things for the possibility they could hold. See if you can observe a silver lining even when something doesn’t go exactly as expected. 


Physical Strength. In my opinion, women do not strength train enough. This results in a major missed opportunity in fueling your body for long term health. We grow up in an environment of gyms where women do cardio and men lift weights and often crossing over can feel very intimidating. Strength training helps women to beat inflammation that can contribute to mental health issues, cancer, autoimmunity, osteoporosis and overall poor health. Getting a trainer (either in person or online - there are so many great options including AI trainers!) is one of the best first steps to take here. It can set you up on the right path to both feel more comfortable and confident with weight lifting and it can get you started on a routine of enjoying weight training! Building muscle mass is really the only way that we can change our basal metabolic rate, which is the rate at which our body burns calories at rest. So if you are like me, sitting much of the day, building muscle is actually going to help you continue to burn calories even in a sedentary state until the next time you work out. There is also a massive benefit to relieving mental health strain when you engage in a workout that feels intense because it can reduce the inflammatory factors in our bodies. Our brain is exposed to these inflammatory factors, so the fewer we have, the less our brain has to deal with and the more resilience we can work on building, as we discussed above.


Women with Her Nation Magzine
Strength training helps women to beat inflammation

Sleep.Finally, the most elusive for a high achieving woman is the major impact of sleep. Most of us are guilty of burning the candle at both ends and ignoring that we are in need of rest. We have only 24 hours to do 1000 hours of work in a day and it just never seems like we have enough time to fit it all in. However, sleep needs to be thought of in the same way you would work out, go to work, or spend time with friends and family, as a priority. If we don't sleep well, that inflammation that we’re trying to fight off with exercise, is going to build right back up. Again, a missed opportunity in fueling our body for long term health. Nighttime is when our body’s trash removal system (the lymphatic system) is working at its best. It requires us to be getting adequate rest and ideally getting high quality deep stage sleep so that it can actually get rid of the waste byproducts of our daily metabolic life. Studies have shown that high quality sleep can also fight off cognitive impairment and dementia long term. That means when we’re sleeping well, we’re being proactive about our long term brain health. How do you know if you’re getting good sleep? Well luckily for us, we’re living in 2024 and there are so many sleep monitors available at all different prices. I have no favorite, but I do wear a smartwatch that allows me to see how many hours I’ve been sleeping and it breaks that down into my core (majority of our sleep), REM (dreaming) and deep sleep (when the lymphatic system is working best). I love to see this because as I play around with various techniques to enhance my sleep, it allows me to have some data points of what is and isn’t working! While we could talk about sleep forever, if you focus on just deep quality sleep, that’s a great start. Focus on two things for this. First, feeling fully relaxed at bedtime, which I know is easier said than done. Try using deep breathing techniques like box breathing when you’re laying down to get your brain the message that we’re safe, relaxed, and good to go to rest. Many people can also consider trying a supplement for sleep. One of my favorite supplements is actually topical Magnesium. Topical magnesium lotion is used in spa massages all the time to help enhance relaxation and it can be part of your day to day. It also doesn’t require you to ingest any supplements so unless when discussing it with your physician, or due to an allergy, you have a contraindication to using topical Magnesium, it’s pretty easy to try out.


There is so much we can do as women to focus on fueling our body for long term health. Think about ways in which the above can apply to your specific body to feel at its best, most stable and most rested so that long term you have a high quality of life.


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Claire Brandon with Her Nation Magzine
Claire Brandon | Founder and Medical Director of Whole Body Psychiatry

Meet the author:

Claire Brandon, MD is a dual board certified, integrative psychiatrist working in lifestyle medicine and wellness psychiatry. She is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and a member of the Academy of Consultation Liaison psychiatry where she has presented at the Academy's national conference in her work on GI psych. She is the founder of Whole Body Psychiatry, a private practice in Manhattan.

  

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