lifestyle changes

Lifestyle Changes are tough important to live a healthy life. Lifestyle is the way a person lives. Over the course of last few decades our lifestyle has undergone a drastic change: with increasing dependence on gadgets and vehicles we have become more sedentary plus eating a calorie dense diet rich in red meat, salt and sugar has increased the prevalence of obesity and its ill-effects. This allows genes which manifest disease to become active and we can fall prey to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, some cancers and obesity. Smoking and alcohol intake further compound the problem. These are known as diseases of affluence or civilization and if we do not change our lifestyle these diseases will become a cause of huge health and economic burden since these are lifelong and expensive to treat. A healthy lifestyle not only prevents non communicable diseases or delays their onset but is useful even for those who already suffer from them. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and 40% of cancer could be prevented primarily, with improvement in diet and lifestyle.

Today, let us see how we can make lifestyle changes which are evidence based and sustainable:

  1. Make small Lifestyle changes: First of all, don’t try to do everything all at once. Start with a small changes and stay focused with these for some time before starting a new change. For example, start with a change in your breakfast and then work your way about other meals. Start by adding a salad in lunch and once you have made it a habit shift to another change. If you want to exercise or go for a walk start with 20 minutes of exercise and then build on it.
  2. Change your Diet: Food is medicine. Opt for a Mediterranean style diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, lentils,seeds and nuts and protein in the form of fish, lean meat and poultry. Stop drinking sugary drinks and noon chai. Go easy on oils and fats. Over the years as society became more affluent, we started to eat a lot of non veg food like mutton and chicken. Processed, fast food like pizza, samosa, burgers etc became a part of our menu. Add to that the easy availability of biryani and shwarma rolls via a phone call, we have a perfect recipe for obesity with its disastrous consequences! Another culprit is the widespread use of bakery in Kashmir. If you eat these, remember to keep your portion size small. Divide your plate into two parts. One half should be full of veggies and fruit and the other half can be divided into two parts: one with a small portion of whole grain and the other with a portion of protein. Eat seasonal and locally available foods and fruits.
  3. Be mindful of your eating habits: take time to eat: do not wolf down your food. Chew food properly .Also it is not necessary to polish off your plate. Eat till you feel full and then stop. Drink water before you start a meal. Do NOT do fad diets.
  4. Make water your drink of choice.
  5. Read food labels: Be aware that food marketing can change the way you buy food. A lot of breakfast cereals have added sugars and you may be adding more calories to your diet.
  6. Set exercise goals and plan how to achieve these: If you want to lose 5 kg weight you should set a goal of losing it in a specified duration of time. Make a plan for exercise which means what time you will exercise and for how long and then stick to it. Write down your plan and see if it is realistic; if not, make changes to make your plan simple and doable. Lift weights and do resistance training twice or thrice a week. Exercise keeps the brain active, muscles fit and the body agile. The benefits of a walk or workout on our mental health are immense. For people who enjoy nature and outdoor activity any type of walking, hiking, climbing, cycling is an excellent aerobic exercise. For individuals who opt for gyms a mixture of aerobics and weight training is needed. Whatever you want to do it should be enjoyable or else you will stop it in a few days. Regardless of one’s weight, an active lifestyle improves health. There are a large number of fitness apps which you can download in your smartphone to keep track of your exercise.
  7. Move more often: Make regular movement throughout the day a part of life. Park your car far from work and then walk. Take stairs, mow the lawn, clean your windows, sweep the garden path, work in your yard and find new ways of staying active. Regular and consistent physical activity is the key to a sustainable optimal health equation.
  8. Involve a buddy: Having a friend with whom to exercise or walk is a great idea to keep yourself motivated. Spending time with a friend is therapeutic and helps us relax. Having people for you in your journey towards a better lifestyle is encouraging and makes the process less strenuous.
  9. Stress management: Stress can be motivating and help us achieve our goals but too much of stress can lead to anxiety, depression, obesity, immune dysfunction and more. In case you are having problems in coping with stress reach out to a therapist. Meditate and practice gratitude.Remain positive and work on building emotional resilience. Social connectedness helps us in developing emotional resilience. Isolation has been shown to increase mortality so mend your relationships and go out of your way to meet and spend time with loved ones. Stress management is one of the best lifestyle changes you can ever make.
  10. Get adequate sleep, rest and relaxation. Sleep is a time when the body recharges and repairs. A lot of adults suffer from sleep apnea which greatly increases health risks since the quality of sleep is poor. Sleep apnea can present with snoring, getting up at night gasping for breath, depression and forgetfulness. If you have any such concerns, talk to your doctor for a sleep study. There are treatments like CPAP that improve the quality life for patients of sleep apnea. This is last but not the least effective lifestyle changes

Give up Smoking:  Smoking is related to a long list of diseases and cancers and is a leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death.Tobacco use whether smoked or chewed is a health hazard and cessation of tobacco use is associated with better health outcomes.

Dr. Rehana Kounsar

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