Healthy Living

Healthy Living
Healthy Living

Our health, well being and life expectancy can be influenced by adjustments in our life style, i.e. by following a healthy life style. Findings from a research led by Prof. Kay-Tee Kwah, a Gerontologist at Cambridge University, published in Journal of PLoS Medicine,2008, reveal that a person’s life span can be increased by as much as 14 years by, not smoking, drinking alcohol only moderately, eating healthy diet and keeping physically fit. These four measures are quite affordable life style changes, which can make a significant improvement in the health of middle aged and older people.

 

Smoking

 

We all know, smoking is bad and hazardous. It predisposes to many life threatening conditions, e.g. Cancer lungs, throat, bladder; Chronic bronchitis, Ischaemic heart disease,(Angina& Heart attack), High blood pressure, Peripheral vascular disease(poor peripheral circulation and even gangrene). Therefore those who are smoking must make sincere efforts to stop smoking for ever. It is never too late to do so. Your general practitioner can help you to ‘’Quit Smoking’’.

 

Alcohol

 

Most of us enjoy having a drink of wine, spirits or beer. Alcohol is mainly metabolised by liver in our body, although some is breathed out and some is excreted in the urine. Heavy drinking can obviously damage the liver cells and cause alcohol related liver disease, e.g. Cirrhosis, and other serious disorders which can affect pancreas, stomach, ovaries and testes. Heavy drinking damages our brain as well, causing severe cognitive impairment, resulting in loss of the ability to think clearly and memory failure.

 

Does alcohol do any good?

 

There is now strong evidence that drinking one or two units of alcohol per day reduces the risk of Ischaemic heart disease, irrespective of age and sex. It doesn’t matter whether one drinks red or white wine, beer or spirit, because the active ingredient is alcohol. Red wine is however rich in anti-oxidants. It seems to raise the level of HDL cholesterol in blood.

 

One word of caution, that there is a fine line of balance between the good and bad effects of alcohol, and certainly exceeding the limits can predispose to diseases mentioned earlier. Certainly if one does not drink any alcohol at all, it is not necessarily advisable to start drinking.

 

Safe Limits

 

Department of Health’s recommendations regarding safe limits for drinking are;-

 

Men – Not more than 3 units in 24 hours

 

Women – Not more than 2 units in 24 hours

 

Some examples of Unit measures

 

Large 250 ml. glass of red or white wine (13%) 3.3 Units
Standard 175 ml glass of red or white wine (13%) 2.3 Units
Small 125 ml. glass of red or white wine (13%) 1.6 Units
Single 25 ml. measure of spirits (40%) 1.0 Unit
A pint of Lager or Beer (4%) 2.3 Units

 

Seek help before it is too late if your drinking Alcohol is becoming a problem

 

Exercise (Keep fit)

 

Exercise is the most important way to keep healthy and fit. Age is not a limit to start exercises. Lack of activity adversely affects our health and well being.

 

What are the benefits?

 

Exercise improves the functions of heart and lungs. People who take moderate exercise regularly have half the risk of dying from heart disease, compared to the same age group.

 

It strengthens muscles, ligaments, bones and joints.

 

It prevents Osteoporosis and can also be helpful in back pain and Osteoarthritis.

 

It promotes the feeling of well being. Moderate and regular exercise has been found to boost brain hormone called endorphins, which act as inbuilt anti depressant, and tranquilliser. It helps to beat stress and reduces tension.

 

It helps to reduce weight, prevent obesity and problems associated with it.

 

It helps alertness and short term memory.

 

It helps to correct the tendency of increase in blood pressure with age.

 

Thus overall, moderate and regular exercise, e.g. 30 minutes of moderately intensive activity a day on at least 5 days a week, helps to keep one fit. Fitness could mean to feel well, have energy and get the most out of life, and be able to do things one wants or need to do, e.g. being able to do a bit of lifting, shifting and carrying without strain or injury, being supple enough to reach those difficult places without a struggle and having the stamina to run around with grand children without collapsing.

 

What type of exercise

 

A moderate type of exercise means any activity that makes one breathe one a little harder and heart beats more strongly, enough to be aware of it. One might feel a bit warmer and perhaps begin to sweat.

 

There are various types of exercises which one can do, e.g. brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing, golf, etc. They all improve cardiac and pulmonary functioning.

 

Jogging involves high impact with the ground. This jarring effect is good, because it stimulates the bones and joints to become stronger and tougher. .One must have proper footwear for this exercise.

 

Aerobics and keep-fit classes are organised in the community specially tailored towards elderly. Emphases in these classes are more on stretching and improving muscle strength to support the joints, which are very important.

 

Tai-Chi

 

This system of exercise originated in China about 2000 years ago. This is a mind-body approach to exercise. It is done standing up and involves a series of graceful flowing, balanced and stretching movements. It increases the suppleness and strength of the body and focuses the mind on position and posture. It improves balance, which helps to prevent falls in the elderly. There are Tai-chi classes held in the community.

 

Yoga

 

It actually means philosophical and practical union of moral, spiritual, mental and physical fulfilment through a series of prescribed disciplines. It originated in India about 5000 years ago. The most widely practised type of yoga in the west is ‘Hath yoga’ which consists of various ‘asanas’ and ‘pranayams’. Yoga can be started at any age. . Individuals can follow their own programme from a series of activities depending upon their abilities. They provide perfect physical and mental harmony as well as control of balance and muscle strength.

 

Pranayam

 

This means controlling of breath or vital life energy(pran). It is a method of rhythmic breathing which strengthens the lungs, increases blood circulation and increases longevity. Pranayam teaches the art of deep respiration, which opens up more areas of the lungs and prevents it getting stiffer as we age. . There are various types of ‘pranayams’ Therapeutically they help to control hypertension and stress and may eliminate the need for anti hypertensive drugs, but of course only after medical advice.

Asanas

 

These are mainly form of physical exercises. Some of them involve quite difficult postures but there are exercises which can be done by most people and they are focussed towards strengthening the spine, hips and knee joints. They can help to prevent Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis.

 

There are yoga classes in the community which mostly teach ‘asanas’. However there are classes coming up which teach both sets of yoga. One can get details from the website www.bwy.org.uk, the web site for British wheel of yoga.

 

Healthy Diet

 

One should eat a balanced diet, i.e. eating meals consisting of different types of food to provide the essential nutrients that the body needs. About one third of the diet should comprise of fruit and vegetables, one third starchy staples and one third should be a combination of proteins and dairy products. Please see the section on ‘Food & Diet’ for further details.

 

Multivitamin supplements and Anti-oxidants

 

Often question is asked if one should take supplements of multivitamins and antioxidants.If one is taking a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, it provides sufficient amount of vitamins and anti oxidants. To retain as much vitamins as possible fruit and vegetables should be eaten fresh and cooked only lightly, e.g. steamed or stir- fried. .At times, if one is recovering from a recent illness or an operation or feeling run down due to any reason, a boost of vitamins and minerals may be helpful.

 

Anti oxidants reduce the damage done to our organs by ‘free radicals’, which are highly reactive biochemical by-products of normal cellular metabolism and have powerful oxidising effect which can interfere with bodily processes. For example, they can hasten the formation of cholesterol laden deposits (atheroma) in the arterial walls resulting in thrombosis. They can cause other changes, for example predisposing to bowel cancer. Vitamins like A,C&E, beta carotenes a precursor of Vitamin A, and some minerals like, Selenium, Manganese are anti oxidants. They can all be provided by eating fruit and vegetables, wholegrain, nuts and pulses. Other sources are ripe tomatoes, tannins in red wine, tea, pomegranates and walnut.

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