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Good Health is nothing to do with Good Luck.

Great Health is everything to do with Great Skill

And I truly believe that the human race has infinite capacity and capability.

And that our capability for health lies in understanding that health is a skill – something to develop and enhance and create, not something to simply have.

In fact I’m advocating to change health from a noun into a verb so that health is something that you do.

One of the key aspects of health is knowing now – where am I at right now in my health story- and more importantly, it’s knowing ahead– what is my trajectory, where am I headed. And one of the biggest predictors of health that tells you where you’re headed is age.

We know that the passage of time erodes health in a very natural way, but that we, through our lifestyles, through our daily living, through our moment to moment decisions, speed up that erosion. And one piece of data that is so important to know is your age. And of course you’ll tell me, “but I already know how old I am, how does that help me”. Well, your age is not determined by the number of candles you blow out on your cake every year. The number of sunrises you see in your lifetime is simply your chronological age. How do we explain how if we look at 2 x 75-year olds side by side, they can appear to have aged and be functioning so differently?

Well, it’s down to your biological age, your cellular age – the age that actually matters in terms of predictability for your healthspan (the life in your years) and your lifespan (the years in your life).

And we’re now so privileged to be in the age, an era, of the most wondrous of technological advances. And we can actually measure biological age. Your true age. By utilising the cutting edge science of Epigenetics. And unlike your genetics which are fixed, your epigenetics, which are the tags you attach to your genes to switch them on or off, are very much in your control. You choose what comes alive, how your genes express themselves, by how you move, what you eat, how you sleep, what emotions you feel. And that is what determines your biological age. And not only can you measure it. But you can also change it. Your biological age doesn’t have to go in one direction at the speed of the clock. You can reset your clock and slow down ageing. By changing your lifestyle you change your epigenetic clock, you change the ageing process – the single strongest predictor of your healthspan and your lifespan.

But you can get even more precise. Take out the guesswork of what makes a healthy life. Through all my extensive reading and research and experience I’ve developed The Lifestyle First Method®– a radical blueprint for the 10 key roots of life for optimal health and happiness, performance and productivity, care and compassion. vision and values, motivation and mindset. Radical is about getting to the root of health. Radical is about the simplicity of life. Radical is about embedding health into every aspect of life – at home, at work, at rest, at play.

And here are the 10 key roots of health and happiness, the Lifestyles First Method®

L is life’s purpose – what is it that matters to you, what drives you? Create your purpose.

I is identity – what are your values, what is your positive statement of your identity, how would you finish off the sentence I am…? Create a daily affirmation. Be the person you want to be.

F is food – develop a focus on food as nutrition, on food as energy, on food as a gateway to health. We know that food is a very important determinant of health – and we get to choose every mouthful. How are you utilising food as your medicine?

E is exercise – we are designed to move. Daily activity is key to keeping revitalised. Move in a way you enjoy.

S is sleep – sleep serves such an important array of functions, providing our emotional reset, enabling our gut to heal, restoring performance – and yet we sacrifice it so much. Focus on rhythms that fit with your patterns. Do you know your natural chronotype?

T is time out –create space for relaxation for restoration and mindfulness for awareness.

Y is your connections – we are of course social animals and socialisation and connection paves the way for a longer life. Who do you affect and who affects you?

L is learning habits – this the bedrock of health and a key life skill; automaticity of health actions is a skill which can be learned and practised. Your goals and priorities can take on a self-perpetuating life on their own without the need for will power.

E is emotions – I’m trained in acceptance and commitment therapy and tying in your emotional responses to your values and the life you want to live with purpose and direction provides contentment with the past, happiness in the present and hope for the future.

First of course you need the 3c’s to develop health as a skill. You need:

Commitment – to changing your lifestyle in a meaningful way

Certainty – that you can achieve what you want to achieve

Confidence – that you can navigate the inevitable roadblocks

And that is how I help individuals develop health as a personal skill and how I help businesses embed health as an organisational skill for their workforce.

So to sum up, my new age definition of health is Health is a life skill that you:

H: Hold – hold as your own, don’t hand over to be fixed

E: Engage – engage in with the curiosity of an active participant in your own health journey

A: Action – action with purpose aligned to you values

L: Learn – learn with a growth mindset

T: Target – target without guesswork by taking focused action based on your measurable data

H: Harness – harness the benefits of joyful, intentional living the way you want to live

(yes I love acronyms!!)

Nutritank are certainly harnessing nutrition as an essential health skill and embedding this right at the heart of medical schools, increasing professional utility and enhancing public awareness. I’m delighted to be supporting a boundary-pushing think tank!

Dr Alka Patel

Dr Alka Patel

Dr Alka Patel is a Lifestyle Medicine Physician, GP, Coach and Therapist. She is the Founder of Lifestyle First and the Creator of The Lifestyle First Method®. Her passion project is "to sew the seeds of lifestyle medicine into everyday conversation, to embed the roots of health into daily living, to create a canopy of self care across the globe and to share the fruits of connectivity." Follow her @dralkapateluk and listen to her podcast - The Lifestyle First Podcast.

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