By Dr Marcus Ranney
The world is facing an epidemic of chronic health diseases ranging from obesity and diabetes to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and even neurodegenerative diseases. Recent research papers attribute mitochondrial dysfunction as one of the reasons why the incidence of these diseases is rising. While the genetic causes for mitochondrial dysfunction aren’t in our control, the environmental aspects and lifestyle habits that can make our mitochondria go out of whack can definitely be modified for a longer, healthier life.
Before we go deeper into the science of mitochondrial dysfunction and how it can lead to diseases, let us understand what mitochondria are.
Mitochondria: The Powerhouse Of The Cells
Mitochondria are organelles found in cells in the body. They are responsible for producing cellular energy called adenosine triphosphate or ATP. They are found in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas etc. and often aid in the optimal functioning of these organs. Mitochondria also aids the body’s functioning through various processes, including cellular repair, muscle contraction, protecting the DNA, immune system functioning, and energy production.
Because mitochondria play such an important role in the body, it becomes imperative to keep it healthy. However, chronic stress, pollution, and unhealthy lifestyle habits often hamper its functioning. These factors can also lead to mitochondrial dysfunction—a condition where these organelles don’t work as well as they should, thus paving the way for a variety of diseases.
What Can You Do To Keep Your Mitochondria Healthy?
Now that you know just why you need to pay attention to these organelles in your cells, it’s time to take charge of your health. The good news is that by altering your lifestyle you can improve the functioning of mitochondria.
Yes, by inculcating a few lifestyle practices you can ensure a healthier and longer life. Researchers suggest that ‘(the) better a species does in protecting its mitochondria, the longer a species lives disease free’. Here are five changes you can make to your lifestyle to ensure this:
1. Get Your Diet In Order
Start eating plenty of greens, vegetables, herbs, and fruits that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Consume healthy fats, such as avocados, coconut oil, ghee, nuts and seeds. Focus on clean proteins and vegetables that aren’t loaded with chemicals and growth hormones. Include foods that are rich in Coq10–an important antioxidant that protects the mitochondria. These include salmon, chicken, peanuts, and spinach.
Just adding these foods to your diet isn’t enough. It’s also important that you curtail your carbohydrate and refined sugar intake.
2. Embrace HIIT To Keep Your Mitochondria Healthy
Exercising aids more than just weight loss. The impact of a regular exercise regimen can be seen right down to the cellular level. While physical activity in any form is beneficial, interval training in particular has shown tremendous results when it comes to optimal mitochondrial functioning. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism suggests that embracing high intensity interval training (HIIT) increases mitochondrial capacity by nearly 50 per cent in young individuals, and around 70 per cent in individuals older than 65.
If you’re new to HIIT, start slowly by doing interval training exercises once a week—slowly building your capacity to thrice to four times in a week.
3. Don’t Skimp On Sleep
It’s a well-known fact that we need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night to function properly. But did you know that even short-term sleep deprivation can result in oxidative stress–also known as cell stress–and impair mitochondrial functioning?
Lack of sleep and/or abnormal sleeping patterns also affect mitochondrial DNA which keeps these organelles from aiding your body’s recovery process.
If you often face difficulties in falling asleep, it’s time to build healthy sleep habits, including: staying away from your phone, laptop, TV, and other devices that emit blue light at least an hour before bed; going to bed and waking up at the same time every day; and optimizing your bedroom environment by using blackout curtains.
4. Embrace Stress Management Techniques
Stress is a part and parcel of daily life; but it’s also important to ensure that it doesn’t take over your life and impact your health. Studies suggest that psychological stress can disfigure mitochondrial structure, making these organelles swell and distending their membrane—thus impairing its functioning. Keeping your stress levels under check, thus becomes even more essential.
By meditating and practicing deep breathing techniques you can keep your stress under control. Taking a walk outdoors, exercising regularly, and practicing yoga can also help with stress relief.
These simple lifestyle modifications can ensure optimal functioning of your mitochondria, thus promoting mental and physical health. The healthier your mitochondria, the longer you can live without the threat of chronic diseases looming large.
Dr Marcus Ranney, Founder & CEO, Human Edge
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are sole of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.)