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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A “Lagom” Approach

In the charming Wisconsin village of Elkhart Lake, Pirkko Jarvensivu has owned and operated Nordic Accents for 32 years. I have traveled to Elkhart Lake twice and each time, I paid a visit to Pirrko, always behind the counter or arranging displays and inventory in her beautiful store.

On my last visit I bought an attractive pocket-sized book, “The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips for a Happier, Healthier Life” by Bertil Marklund, MD, PhD (Greystone Books, 2017).

Since it’s the time of year when many of us evaluate our health, in this double-length post I will give Marklund’s book a bit of a review. I’ve since gifted the book twice, though sadly could not visit Nordic Accents for the second purchase. It is available on Amazon. It is important to note that this is a book review and not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professionals before embarking on any new healthcare program.

In the Introduction, Marklund tells us his parents passed away too early and through that experience he found himself considering what choices he could make in his own life that might grant him more healthy years to share with family and friends. As a doctor, he turned to the latest science on the matter of health and longevity. He found the main threat to our health is inflammation in the body. True to his Swedish roots of pared down simplicity, Marklund wanted to make his findings accessible and easy to understand for as many people as possible. His short book covers broad ground, providing a comprehensive guide to lifestyle choices, including areas such as sleep, diet, exercise, and social relationships, all geared to prevent damaging inflammation.

Right up front, Marklund explains the Nordic focus of [lagom], for which there is no English equivalent but is best translated as “just the right amount.” Marlund emphasizes that to live a healthy live you do not have to go to extremes. “It’s the small and simple changes that amount to a happy, healthier life,” he writes.

The first portion of the book explains inflammation and how to avoid it in lay terms. It is here he calls out smoking: “by far the most significant cause of free radicals and inflammation.”

The book is further organized into 10 Tips — a handful of pages on each tip taking a deeper dive than I share here, of course.

Tip 1: The importance of exercise
Physical activity will lead to extended life expectancy, stress reduction, delay in dementia, provide risk reduction for diabetes, protect against cancer, and offer risk reduction for cardiovascular diseases.

Tip 2: Time for recovery
“It has been scientifically proven that a less stressful existence improves health. So relax your shoulders and accept that: Life is not just about surviving, it’s about thriving.”

Tip 3: Sleep fortifies
Research shows sleep supports a strong immune system, which reduces numerous significant health risks.

Tip 4: Sun — but not too much
The sun is our best source of Vitamin D. Worldwide, “thirty people die of diseases related to Vitamin D deficiency for every one person who dies of skin cancer.”

Tip 5: Eat yourself healthy
Research agrees certain foods have clear links to health and disease. Foods can both protect against and create inflammation.

Tip 6: Choose the right drink
Certain drinks can promote health — coffee! — but water is the No. 1 drink for life. Booze also is covered, of course.

Tip 7: Keep your weight in check
Losing weight and then maintaining your ideal weight involves switching to a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise that is maintained for life.

Tip 8: Oral health provides general health
People are surprised to learn there is a correlation between gum inflammation and diseases of the body’s vascular system.

Tip 9: Be an optimist
Optimists live longer, have better attention levels and better memories.

Tip 10: We need each other
“People are pack animals — we need each other.”

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