SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Fight for fitness

Start walking: Regular exercise brings good health and vitality.   | Photo Credit: Photo: Shaju John

DR. RAVI JAYAM

For those over 40, a healthy diet and exercise can help provide the answer to dealing with lifestyle disorders.

THERE is an old adage "we are what we eat". If you are consuming fried food and not doing enough physical activity, it will tell on your health sooner than later.You need to be more careful as you approach the age of 40. Several patients in this age group face problems like respiratory tract infections, fatigue, gastroenteritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. In most cases, improper/ unhealthy lifestyle and dietary habits act as a trigger.

Various stress factors

This age group also has to cope with the maximum amount of professional and familial responsibilities. They often travel a lot for work, attend multiple meetings in a day, manage a team of juniors and meet targets or deadlines. Most have children in their teens. There is stress over their educational and emotional needs. They also have to cope with financial stress paying EMIs on time, meeting rising household expenses, saving for retirement... Responsibilities do tend to reduce a bit once we enter the fifties. But the harm done to one's health in the early years may be difficult to reverse, as we grow older. Moreover, given their busy schedules, these people have little time for exercise. Long working hours and bad eating habits complicate matters.

Avoid junk food

Modern-day diets comprising ready-to-eat convenience foods and `junk' foods are replacing our traditional diets that included large portions of fruits and vegetable. When our fruits and vegetable intake reduces, our body gets lower doses of minerals and vitamins. Also, the `junk foods' are more calorie-dense, high on simple carbohydrates and fat. Frequent consumption of such `junk' foods coupled with irregular intake of balanced meals may contribute to many health problems such as acidity, gastroenteritis, overweight/obesity, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Due to these factors, many in this age group also complain of fatigue. All those who are over 35 should make certain dietary and lifestyle changes to optimise their health and tackle fatigue. To begin with, focus on foods like whole grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables. Eat more lean meat and other protein sources. Cut down on oily food. Reducing the consumption of alcohol and trying to quit smoking is also advisable. Nutritional supplements or micronutrient-fortified foods can also be useful. The inclusion of a health food drink enriched with vitamins and minerals, high on fibre but with zero sugar and cholesterol can also be considered. Such health food drinks can help one meet the daily quota of nutrients and therefore, help improve nutritional status. Adequate nutrient intake can also help boost immunity and keep one healthier. While these cannot substitute a regular diet, they can help provide nourishment. So, inclusion of health food drinks may help those approaching 40 in more ways than one.

Physical activity

It is also vital to increase your physical activity. Go for a 30-minute brisk walk, at least four to five times in a week. Regular exercise or some form of physical activity (such as brisk walks, cycling) will certainly help in bringing health and vitality.Regular health check-ups are also a must at this age. Monitor you blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar every six months. A few changes in dietary habits and a 30-minute brisk walk every day can certainly help lead a longer and healthier life. The writer is a Diabetologist based in Hyderabad.