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On the right track Regular exercise can keep diseases at bay
On the right track Regular exercise can keep diseases at bay

Overweight and exhausted? Get a hold on your life with a proper diet and an exercise routine

For years, Harish, 30, a marketing professional, constantly abused his body. If breakfast was pongal and vada, lunch was grand parathas, greasy pulav and paneer curry. Bajjis and masala vadais followed during tea break. Dinner was a repeat of lunch; only a syrupy sweet was extra. A heavyweight at 95 kg, Harish thought all was well with his world till a casual visit to the doctor confirmed otherwise. His cholesterol levels had skyrocketed and he stood on the threshold of diabetes. Chastened, he sought help to bring his life back on track. Now, he exercises for an hour every day and has banned sugar, ghee and oil from his diet.

Lifestyle modification

"I thought the lab had made a mistake. My Triglycerides (`ugly cholesterol' that can affect the heart and pancreas) count had hit 500 and my fasting sugar was 130. I realised a change in lifestyle was a must."This generation's tendency to work long hours, eat fast food and settle for homebound entertainment has created many people like Harish. Take Jayachandra, a bank manager. He did all the wrong things, confident that no disease would touch him. "When I got my result (high cholesterol, borderline diabetic), I felt like I had failed the most important exam of my life," he says. Doctors say the age profile of those with lifestyle diseases is decreasing by the day. Cardiologist J. S. Bhuvaneswaran says statistics show that coronary artery disease is shifting to younger people. "There is no specific reason, but diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, fast lifestyle ... all can lead to it. It can either be inherited or acquired. But, following a proper diet and an exercise routine from day one is better than switching to it after a problem is detected."Another disease silently invading the bodies of young people is diabetes. V. Rajendran, a diabetologist, says eating junk food and inability to tackle peer pressure have resulted in many kids becoming his patients long before they have to. "Campuses have to be made free of fast foods," he insists. Are people willing to go in for a lifestyle makeover or do they have to be forced into it? "There is a thin line between right education and threatening the patient. Proper counselling and motivation usually puts them on track," he says. Nutritionists say routine overeating is the key to obesity and related diseases. Overeating usually has its roots in childhood where children are fed crisp dosas and rasam saadham redolent of ghee. "Many parents overfeed children. Then, the kids learn to eat more on their own. This leads to obesity," says paediatrician P. Angeline Prema.Keep kids on a moderate diet, she says. "Kids have little time to exercise now. Any free time is spent watching television. Parents must help children exert themselves physically," Dr. Prema adds. It is possible that once children get used to the adrenalin rush that exercise and physical games give, they will most likely continue them for life.People have to learn to eat right from an early age. It is difficult to switch to low-cal salads after a lifetime of high-cal binging. Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor says people are willing to try low-fat food but are waiting for someone to show them how."No one likes the oil floating atop gravies. Oil is just a medium. You can cook without it. The trick is to keep everything else (masala, salt) constant," he adds. Dr. G. Lakshmipathi, a senior general physician, says lifestyle modification is the need of the day. "You can think that it is okay to eat ghee because your grandfather consumed a lot of it. But, he walked ten miles and milked the cows. How about you?" he asks. However, what gladdens him is that once people realise their body is not in great health, most work towards a change. "Except for a fatalistic few, the others hit the gym, go on diets, the works," he says. That is the kind of response Dr. R. Ganesh would like to see in his patients. But, despite motivation and guidance, the response is not all that positive, he says. "For one, many patients are unwilling to accept that they are at fault for letting their body go," he adds.He agrees that work pressure prevents many from devoting time to exercise, but says an attempt should be made. "Sadly, many IT professionals focus just on the well-stocked cafeteria at office; not on the well-equipped gym there," he quips.SUBHA J. RAO

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