What are the keys to living longer, healthier lives? Orthopedic surgeon and international authority on active aging and sports medicine, Dr. Vonda Wright believes there are “Five Pillars of Health” individuals can focus on to extend their healthspan.
“We need socialization at every age. We, as human beings, need the company of other people. We know that there is significant literature on how isolation is such a devastating factor in aging poorly. Make as many friends for as long as you can.”
“I have become a firm believer in sleep and recovery. Do not call me after 10:00 at night because you will not get an answer. But call me at 5:00 in the morning and I’m all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. We need to protect our sleep. It is a trend backed by science now that we need seven to eight hours a night of sleep uninterrupted in a pattern, we just must get it.”
“We know that sleep is somewhat disrupted as we age. There are lots of ways that we can make it easier to go to sleep via routines or using melatonin.”
3. Detoxify Your Body
“People who still smoke must do everything on heaven and earth to stop. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States saved so many lives in this country by banning indoor smoking. I get it’s hard. I get it’s an addictive habit. But there are lots of resources that we can help you with.”
“But it’s not only smoking. We have to be conscientious of how much alcohol we drink because that does affect aging. We have to be conscientious about the plastic toxins that we get from all of our plastics and rubbers. We have to be aware of everything, even pesticides, because we’re not always conscious about [toxins] unless we’re thinking about it.”
“We have to move every day. It doesn’t have to be blood-curdling exercise. It can be just cumulative mobility, because mobility through multiple pathways keeps us young in every organ system. Thirty-three chronic diseases respond to the positive impact of mobility. As an orthopedic surgeon, my ‘why’ for getting up every morning is because I know that by saving mobility, I am going to save lives by staving off the effects of chronic disease.”
5. Smart Nutrition
“Food really makes us who we are. It’s very important what we put in our bodies. Nature does not make fluorescent foods and plastic wrappers. We need to be eating non-toxic whole foods. We need to really investigate what foods contain high glycemic loads, how much sugar even marvelous things like fruit have. If taken in the wrong way can have wild effects on our glycemic load.”
“Eating things like green leafy, vibrant colors, lean protein, whether you get it from animals or whether you get it from beans and legumes, are really in my opinion the way to start.”
On incorporating these tips into your routine: “We can start with nutrition for a few weeks. Then we can add in the mobility, and then the other habits one at a time. If we try to do all five at once, if we’re starting from nowhere, it’s too difficult. Focus on one brick at a time, building the five pillars of health so your healthspan equals your lifespan. “
Dr. Vonda Wright is an orthopedic surgeon & president of Hughston Orthopaedics Southeast in Lake Nona, FL. An international authority on active aging and sports medicine, Wright is the author of Fitness After 40 and Guide to Thrive: 4 Steps to Body, Brains and Bliss , and a Growing Bolder contributor.