OTHERS

Preventing heart disease

Are there any preventive measures against coronary heart disease? It runs in my family and I would like to know what I can do to reduce the risk of my getting it.

M. A. Niaz

JUST because there is a family tendency to early heart disease it does not necessarily mean you will succumb too it. Our genetic predisposition to a certain condition is modified by the environment we place ourselves in, our lifestyle choices and mental-emotional attitude. There is even some evidence to suggest that if your intake of certain nutrients is sufficient, you may reduce your risk for heart disease. For example, an interesting study shows that the risk of heart disease in middle-aged men and elderly subjects in an urban area of India was associated with a low plasma level of vitamin A, C, and E and beta-carotene. The association between blood levels of anti-oxidant nutrients and coronary heart disease has been investigated in a number of long- term studies in adults.

The state-of-the-art advice to reduce your risk consists of 1) not smoking 2) getting your blood pressure within a normal range 3) staying at your ideal weight 4) getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day 5) limiting your intake of highly saturated fats and maintaining normal cholesterol and blood lipids 6) practising some form of stress reduction such as daily prayer or meditation and 7) supplementing your diet with a daily anti-oxidant vitamin.

I work in the computer field and undergo quite a bit of stress. I am worried that it is affecting my ability to concentrate. Are there natural remedies you can suggest to help me focus?

L. B. Singh

Unfortunately, stress is one of the great by-products of the technical age. People who work in the computer and technology fields are experiencing no "down-time," as they are available by e-mail, pager, voice mail, and are part of the new "24/7" work ethic. Meaning, they are supposed to be available at a moment's notice in an intrusively wired society. This leaves them with a loss of privacy since they can be tracked down anywhere, anytime.

Some computer executives are complaining that the pressure to increase innovation and productivity is so unrelenting, they are left without time to re-charge their mental batteries. Without rest and recreation, their best thinking is no better than a hard drive meltdown.

All the best natural remedies amount to little if you cannot step out of the fray and get some needed rest, first and foremost. If you work indoors, be sure to get outside for a shot of sunlight and fresh air at least once or twice on a work break. Also, put yourself through some head-to-toe stretching exercises in order to counter the crippling effects of work-station inactivity. Try to elicit a company-wide or at least division-wide campaign to begin a wellness initiative at work.

Some herbs that can help you cope with stress include ashwagandha, chicory, asparagus root, licorice, gotu-kola, turmeric, and vitamin B complex.

I have heard that use of cellular phones can be dangerous. Is that true?

S. Chatterjee

Cellular phones are probably one of the most exciting inventions since the television. But since their introduction in the mid- 1980's, it is estimated that there are millions of car accidents from people using their cellular phones while driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that if you use a car phone for more than 50 minutes per month, you are likely to be involved in an auto accident. It is just too hard to keep mind on your driving, when you are shouting to your business associates.

In many of the world's leading cities, you cannot walk down the street, eat in a restaurant or even go for a stroll in the park without hearing someone in the middle of a conversation on his or her cellular phone. The streets of London are so cluttered with "phone talk" that I am constantly looking over my shoulder, thinking someone is addressing me in a bizarre fashion. Some young girl who sounded like my daughter kept insisting, "Just step over my piles! I'll clean it up later." I had to watch where I was walking before I realised she was on her cell phone. Duped again!

There is another worry about the overuse of cellular phones, and that is the electromagnetic field (EMF) generated by the device. While some researchers are concerned that the field could interfere with the human energy field, and possible effects on the subtle energies of living matter, several studies have been inconclusive or dismissed the possibility. However, new evidence that headsets attached to cellular phones may be linked with a higher incidence of headaches, migraines, cellular tissue abnormalities and other ailments is undergoing repeat investigation.

After an initial hey-day with my cellular phone (and after receiving a whopping bill from the telephone company!) I have curtailed my use of it to emergencies only or at least near- emergencies, like putting a call to say, "I am coming home late, I am sorry and I love you!" Well, that is downright healthy.

PEG JORDAN

E-mail the writer at peg-hindu@hotmail.com

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