Health matters for the young, too!

Health matters for the young, too! - When we are young, we are oblivious to disease, sickness or even death. All three are not part of our daily vocabulary or language or if they are, we feel that they do not apply to us. Once we step into the late thirties, however, bells start tolling and we begin to feel the countdown. Headaches, acid reflux, bloating, toothaches, weight problems, blood pressure, cholesterol or even diabetes begin appearing. Only then, when the doctor strongly recommends — with a warning tone — weight loss, healthy diet and exercise, do we begin reviewing our lifestyle practices of taking our bodies for granted.

This is a wakeup call! If we seriously act upon the warning, we can arrest the condition and even reverse it with healthy lifestyle. If no action is taken, however, trouble will start sprouting and showing.

Should we wait for the warning signs or should we take action long before symptoms arise in order to prevent the appearance or assault of illness? I believe that there are no two answers to this question. As the alternative can be devastating, putting an end to youth, wellness and joie de vivre, the answer should naturally point to behavioral modifications to restore health and wellness. To those who are willing to incorporate such changes in their lifestyles, I shall offer suggestions that can maintain body equilibrium and fend off disease!

Your health is predicted by the lifestyle you lead; consequently, many sayings have come up as a result of it. For example, Hippocrates once said: “Let thy food be thy medicine” and then there’s another famous saying: “You are what you eat.” Your diet and the quantity you consume influences your health directly. Such statements should be your lead to caring for your health. It is never too early to start. What you feed your children today is going to be their favorite food tomorrow. For example, once you add sugar to their food as children, they will not have it any other way when they are adults.

A nutritious diet should be started early and training should begin at childhood since humans are creatures of habits. When children are given food high in vitamins, minerals, proteins, complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, enzymes, essential fatty acids (omegas) and soluble and insoluble fiber, they will learn to like and enjoy nutrient-rich meals. As a result, healthy foods should be introduced as early as possible so that good eating habits are instilled during childhood. Let us see how to embed good lifestyle practices in both children and adults.

Children mimic their parents. You cannot eat unhealthy, fatty food and fries and expect your young ones to eat otherwise. Parents should set the example. If you eat well, then they will follow suit and so on. You will also notice that your body will benefit from balanced nutrition and healthy habits.

The first rule is to introduce a nutritious diet that includes fresh vegetables (dark leafy greens, roots, squashes, cabbages and the onion family) and deep-colored whole fruits (mango, berries, citrus, dates, bananas, apples, oranges, pomegranate and papaya). The reason for that is they contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, soluble and insoluble fiber, essential fatty acids and protective phytochemicals. Add colorful raw or lightly cooked vegetables to salads topped with appetizing dressings mixed with condiments (garlic, onions, ginger and/or mustard) and aromatic herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, mint and/or dill). Substitute soda and soft drinks with fresh fruit and vegetable juices flavored with lemon and light spices. Tomatoes or carrots make a good base for veggie juices.

Vitamins and minerals keep the body, bones, organs, and brain healthy and operational, and enzymes make cells function efficiently. “Good” fats (omegas) balance hormonal systems and make neurotransmitters that help brain cells communicate and operate optimally. Phytochemicals (polyphenols and carotenoids) coming from fruit’s intense pigments, maintain health and wellness; protect the eyes and vascular system and prevent and quell inflammation, which is the root of most illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

Fish, poultry, legumes and lean meat provide protein to make our body’s building blocks. They make blood cells, muscles and collagen; repair skin and heal wounds. Fatty fish (salmon, tuna and sardines), nuts, seeds, seaweed and legumes are rich in essential fatty acids like omega-3 and -6 to nourish cells and brain; lubricate skin and eyes and prevent artery blockage, inflammation and joint disorders.

Soluble fiber and omega-3 in legumes (soya and beans), whole grains (barley, oats and red yeast rice), seeds (flax and hemp seeds) and seedy fruits (berries, kiwifruit, guava, figs, pomegranate and oranges) reduce cholesterol and sugar levels as well as C-reactive protein — an inflammation indicator that leads to cardiovascular disorders. Beans also contain an amino acid, glutonic acid, which in studies appeared to lower blood pressure.

Complex carbohydrates and fiber are found in whole grains (whole wheat and rice, oat, barley, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa) give healthy energy, build cells when complemented with different legumes (lentils, beans, soy, peas and garbanzo). They provide soluble fiber for the heart and insoluble fiber for intestinal health.

For further protection, replace soft drinks with hot or cold tea (green or white), herbal infusions (mint, lemon grass, rosemary, hibiscus, chamomile, rhooibus and verbena) and yogurt drinks. To increase polyphenol intake, add spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and star anise) to your hot or cold beverages since they improve your heart, arteries, eyes and brain health; detoxify your body and boost your immune system.

Most importantly, go easy on refined sugar, syrups and honey and avoid artificial sweeteners and corn fructose as they are very harmful to your health.

Furthermore, since the produce we eat nowadays is neither fresh nor organic, we may need supplements from health stores. Long refrigeration periods, pesticide and chemical spraying, nutrient-depleted farming soils and refinement and processing have stripped our foods of their inherent nutrients. If you are uncertain of your dietary nutrient intake, check your blood for deficiencies and then take supplements before problems arise.

Vitamin C (up to 1000 mg) with citrus bioflavonoids in particular is important to protect the vascular system, make collagen, bolster the immune system, lower inflammation factors, suppress the production of C-reactive protein and improve eye health. It is particularly abundant in citrus fruits (especially in their pulp), such as strawberries, kiwi, papaya and tomatoes.

In recent studies, vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in several illnesses such as recurrent infections, skin diseases, inflammation, diabetes, certain cancers and blood pressure — vitamin D inhibits a chemical that raises blood pressure. Because the vitamin regulates the immune mechanism, it is important to expose 25 percent of the skin to direct sunlight after 10 a.m. for 15 minutes. The skin synthesizes the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays into vitamin D. Deficiency in D is quite prevalent in our country and the US hence a daily supplement in the form of D3, 400 IUs or above, is recommended in addition to sun exposure.

Here are some foods and practices to avoid: Refined sugar and carbohydrates should be eliminated from the diet to prevent obesity, diabetes, inflammation, cardiovascular disorders, yeast infections and colon cancer. Refined grains are unhealthy for the digestive system. Sugar is concentrated in soft drinks (around 10 spoons per can), canned fruit juices, ice cream, “frappucinos,” (ice-blended beverages) ketchup, sweetened snacks and readymade salad dressings. Sugar is an acquired taste that starts duing childhood with candy and added sugar. Remember, however, that sugar substitutes (aspartame, saccharine and corn sugar) are harmful to health.

Molasses and honey are good in moderation as well as stevia leaves and xylitol for diabetics.

Just like sugar, sodium is an acquired taste that starts at an early age, such as using salt in baby food. Excess sodium causes water retention, hypertension and calcium to leach from bones, resulting in bone fractures and osteoporosis. As a result, limit table salt and excess consumption of pickles, dried and processed meats, packaged chips and canned, processed and pre-prepared foods.

Saturated animal fat is not the only fat that damages blood vessels and causes obesity. There are also transfats (fats whose configuration has been changed through extreme heat or hydrogenation) and fried foods.

Two other health taboos are smoking and alcohol consumption. Smoking is toxic to health and damaging to the lungs, airways, brain and blood vessels. It reduces oxygen level in the bloodstream, heart, body and brain. Alcohol is not easily metabolized by the liver, which can result in liver cirrhosis and cancer if abused in excess.

The diet section has taken a good part of the article; I should move on to another important health practice: activity. If you come to evaluate all healthy lifestyle habits, exercise or regular activity would be a leader. Health experts believe that an active overweight individual is less of a ticking time bomb than a sedentary slim counterpart. This statement puts exercise in the forefront of healthy practices.

Any form of moderate activity (walking, running or swimming) that comes with a little exertion and sweat maintains the healthy functions of the body, brain, heart and other organs. The heart should beat a little faster than in the sedentary position and little less than the maximum heart beat for the person’s age. Moderate exercises make the heart pump effectively, strengthens the heart muscle, lowers both pulse rate and blood pressure, increases blood oxygen to the body and brain, raises “good” cholesterol, boosts the immune system and metabolism and makes the brain secrete endorphins to relieve stress and improve mood and sleep.

Therapeutic and meditative exercises (yoga or Tai chi) are required for maintaining optimum health. They enhance breathing techniques, increase oxygen intake, build muscles and bone masses, promote muscle elasticity, improve the mood, boost immunity and relax both body and mind. They also lower stress, resulting in less stress hormones secretions, which inflict damage on health in different ways and may lead to autoimmune disorders, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. According to scientists at the Medical College of Georgia, youngsters who practice breathing techniques showed lower blood pressure and heart beat.

Studies have shown the body/mind connection, influencing physical and mental health and wellness. The power of suggestion also seems to sway physical pain positively or negatively. Whether you think or speak about your pain or health, the brain connects with the corresponding organ and affects the area you are thinking or talking about. This only indicates that we should think or utter positive words to influence healing. You should also banish negative thoughts like “I am depressed,” “I am in pain” or “I am tired.” Your state of mind impacts your body and mind physiologically and psychologically.

Sleep is a major lifestyle aspect, which is often quite neglected and not given its eight hours of night rest. Deep sleep induces the body to recover energy and cells to repair and renew. The body can only produce killer cells to fight disease and cancer with regular restful sleep. During an illness, the body requires more hours of sleep and rest in order to heal and recuperate.

Power naps, or siestas not more than 30 minutes, along with relaxation are required to calm the mind and slow down brain waves and heart rate. It is a break for both the body and brain. A Greek study showed that those who took short naps experienced less fatal heart attacks.

The key to balanced health is moderation in all lifestyle habits: diet, activity, work and relaxation. If you can achieve this delicate balance, obesity and disease will not deprive you of your precious health. When you start early, you will enjoy longer years of youth. ( )

You just discovered “the fountain of youth.” Keep it to yourself!

1 comment:

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