The New Year has arrived and some have set new goals and taken new resolutions. Some will stay with it and others will break their resolve before the end of January. Each of us, however, should resolve to stay healthy.
According to a new report from the American Heart Association, just 3 percent of Americans have optimal heart health, while 10 percent have poor heart health. The findings are based on a 2009 survey of more than 350,000 Americans.
People are considered to have optimal heart health if they have normal blood pressure and cholesterol; have no diabetes mellitus; are not obese, overweight or underweight; do not abuse tobacco; stay active with at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week, and eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Although we have made great progress in improving the longevity and bringing down deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer, they continue to be the major players in the morbidity and mortality of the American people. To remain healthy, age gracefully and perhaps even become a centenarian, people need to modify their life styles just a little.
Decades of research have been devoted to find out how the body ages, what causes degeneration of the cells resulting in their death, and how we can control these factors to prevent suffering, preserve health and prolong life. Here are some basic recommendations:
Eat healthy. "Our diet — fried, fatty, salty and sugary — is bad for the heart wherever you live," said Dr. Salim Yusuf, the famous Canadian cardiologist and president of World Heart Association. So resolve to eat the right amount of calories to maintain ideal body weight and the right choice of foods including a variety of fruits and vegetables. The lower the calories the longer you live. A Mediterranean diet with emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fruits, nuts, legumes and fish fit the bill perfectly and go easy on red meat.
Get fit. About 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise spread over one week is the usual prescription. Of course, the more the better for the body. Take up walking, jogging, swimming, jazzercise etc.
Avoid bad habits. Let this be the year to finally quit cigarette smoking. Tobacco abuse in any form, substance abuse, prescription drug abuse (escalating nationwide) and excess of alcohol can wreak havoc on your body. Modest drinking — cardiologists recommend red wine, not spirits — may be okay.
Reduce stress. It can be a killer. Stress can set off a cascade of unpleasant reactions in the body resulting in a rapid flow of bad hormones like epinephrine and cortisol which will increase blood pressure and blood sugar, produce damage to the heart and vascular lining. Responding to stress in an appropriate way by thinking through and taking a rational approach is the right way. Yoga is considered a popular stress buster.
Control diabetes. Incidence of diabetes is rapidly increasing globally and is highly prevalent among Americans. According to diabetologists, many of us are either pre-diabetic or diabetic. Proper diet and exercise are the key factors to prevent diabetes or at least delay its onset. And early diagnosis and proper management could add years to your life.
Sleep well at night: Getting a good night's sleep is very important, an average of seven to eight hours is necessary for most of us for maintaining creativity, productivity and well being. Insomnia and sleep apnea have become quite common and often overnight sleep studies are needed to fully understand the problem in a given individual.
With all the medical advances happening daily, we will be able to conquer most of the diseases in future. Health care expenditure has reached a tipping point and those who maintain a healthy life style will be rewarded in the long run. So, let us all resolve to remain healthy and happy in the New Year.
Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan is a retired cardiologist in Brooksville.