A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Integrative medicine: Living a long, healthy and happy life

Integrative medicine focuses on the important health choices we make every day to encourage living long, healthy and happy lives.

Every day we make important choices that affect whether we will live a long, healthy and happy life. Researchers looked at people that lived to 100 years old to see the secret to their success. The findings found five areas the individuals had in common, called blue zones. These blue zones are now the foundation for the practice of integrative medicine.

The five blue zones include:

  • Sleeping well
  • Moving well
  • Eating well
  • Avoiding toxins
  • Having a purpose

“America spends more money on health care than any other country, and yet we are not the healthiest,” said Dr. Linda Daly-O’Neill from Marshfield Clinic Health System, who has been board-certified in internal medicine since 1996 and is now board-certified in integrative medicine. “Some people just want a pill, but for those eager to improve their health without a pill, integrative medicine can bridge the gap.”

Below is more information about the five blue zones and ways to grow in these areas.

Sleeping well

Sleep is one of the most important ways to improve health because sleeping is when we heal ourselves.

If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor for solutions. Having a conversation with a sleep medicine provider may also be the right move for you.

Moving well

Individuals that live to 100 are not necessarily in the gym pumping iron, nor are they on the couch with the remote. They are living life on the move outside.

“They are out on the fields, up the hills and down the valleys,” said Dr. Daly-O’Neill. “I talk to my patients about ways to move and ways to improve balance.”

For individuals that have a hard time moving due to their musculoskeletal system, patients should talk to their doctor about a referral to physical therapy. Acupuncture can also be an important resource for moving well.

Eating well

Dr. Daly-O’Neill recommends anti-inflammatory diets for her patients, which are also known as Mediterranean or Asian diets.

Anti-inflammatory diets lower inflammation in your body. Foods that reduce inflammation in the body include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins like beans and nuts, fatty fish and fresh herbs and spices.

If you want to improve how you eat, talk to your doctor about getting a referral to nutrition services.

Avoiding toxins

Dr. Daly-O’Neill says that most people living to 100 generally avoid toxins.

“I ask my patients to Google the dirty dozen, which is a list of produce with the highest amount of pesticides in them,” Dr. Daly-O’Neill said. “Then I ask them to Google the clean 15, which is a list of produce with the lowest amount of pesticides in them.”

She recommends eating more produce from the clean 15, while eating organic for those foods that are on the dirty dozen list.

Having a purpose

Probably the most important lifestyle change you can make that will help you live to 100 is to have a purpose.

“In Japan, there is not a word for retirement. I tell patients that they are not clocking in at the factory at 100, but there is always a reason for them to get up in the morning,” said Dr. Daly-O’Neill.

Having a purpose can include:

  • Spending time with family.
  • This does not have to be a religion, but having a reason to be in the world.
  • Volunteering.
  • Keeping close to positive people and avoiding toxic people.
  • Gratitude.
  • Improving resilience.

In integrative medicine, Dr. Daly-O’Neill believes the key question people need to answer is, “What brings you joy?”

“We should live in the moment, but also have goals,” Dr. Daly-O’Neill said. Talk to your doctor today to learn ways to optimize your health.

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