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Lifestyle Approach to Personal Healthcare

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Good health is at the root of all human enterprise: business, investment, recreation, whatever. Without it, all else will virtually fail or, at best, pale into insignificance. It simply ranks first in the hierarchy of possessions that really count, which is why it is said that health is wealth. The good news is that it doesn't have to take much investment of money or effort. Just good sense. Our problem: we never really see good health as a goal to focus on. It is taken for granted, until something snaps.

Now, experts say that re-ordering and managing your lifestyle may just be your strongest weapon for good health. Rooted in the old philosophy of 'prevention is better than cure' (preventive medicine), the call is to institute a personal lifestyle that minimises self-inflicted damage and leaves you in the strongest condition to fight disease. Or you think your doctor can always fix things up? Not always possible and not cheap too. Preventing damage through routine action is the preferred option. Even when a lot of damage is already done, significant regeneration is possible when you begin to do the right things about your lifestyle. So, what right things should you do?

  1. Healthy Dietary Programme
    There is a local thinking that 'diet' symbolises exotic, expensive food. Well, diet is simply about what you eat. To stay healthy, your diet is a major point of challenge. And four aspects of diet are critical:
    • What to eat
    • What not to eat
    • How much to eat
    • When to eat
    It's been established that wrong foods we eat can induce or accentuate health problems. What we fail to eat can also cause the quality of health to deteriorate. If this sounds commonsensical, isn't it a surprise that our feeding habits are blamed for a lot of our health problems? Well, the reality is that it's not that simple to know what is the right food and to exercise the discipline to stick strictly to such food sources. The subject is extensive but let's summarise some key issues here:
    • A rich regimen of fruits and vegetables should become a regular feature of your diet. Particularly important are the dark leafy green vegetable variety and the red, yellow or orange vegetables like tomatoes and carrots, fruits like berry, apples, oranges, grapefruits, apricots, etc. These food sources fortify your body with vitamins and powerful antioxidants and help lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.
    • Dietary fibre should rank high in your diet. They clear up your dietary track and help body metabolism. Beans, barley, cereals, grains, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, fruits and vegetables are rich sources of fiber. Other healthy foods include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs (white), low-fat milk and nuts.
    • Go for a low-fat diet. In particular, saturated fats (largely from animal sources) should be avoided. They raise the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your body, which is damaging to health. Major sources are beef, pork, chicken skin, butter, whole milk and cheese, margarine, candies, cookies and snacks. Also palm oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and some other vegetable oils. Other food items high in cholesterol include liver, organ meats, and egg yolk. You're better off without them. Instead, go for omega-3 rich food sources like flaxseed oil, canola oil, spinach and cabbage, mackerel, salmon, herring, sturgeon and sardines. For healthier poly- and mono-unsaturated fats (which should replace the saturated fats), choose from safflower, sunflower, corn, and cottonseed oils and olive, canola, and peanut oils. And while still on oils and fat, fried foods are an unhealthy choice to avoid (roasted, boiled, grilled, baked, steamed or poached are better options).
    • Plenty of water is very healthy and in fact essential (cell balance, bowel movement, flushing of toxins, general cleansing, etc). Aim for a substantial level of water intake across the day.
    • Stay low on sugar and if you can, scrap it and limit your intake to what comes from the fruits you eat.
    • Salt is a confirmed source of damage, particularly in raising your blood pressure. Avoid or minimise salt intake to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and associated cardio-vascular diseases.
    • Eat in the right portions (you don't need to stuff yourself) and at proper intervals, including breakfast. Needless to say that a balanced diet is always the key. Right portion size, right proportions and right timing.
    • Read more on dieting from the US Department of Health and Human Services publication, Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure with DASH. Good for your blood pressure and good for overall health too.
  2. Adequate Physical Activity
    A sedentary lifestyle is simply bad for your health. You raise the work-rate of your heart when engaging in physical activity and this boosts blood circulation and the distribution of nutrients and oxygen, as well as the elimination of wastes and toxins. Body metabolism is similarly enhanced. When you live a largely inactive life, you reverse these important body functions and slowly clog and wear the system down. Get up into an active lifestyle, for good health. A couch-potato lifestyle will soon land you with weight problems, bringing further complications. Simply get creative in building physical activity into your daily routine, no matter the nature of work:
    • Formal exercising like jogging, cycling and swimming are considered particularly good, if you can. Aerobics too. Walking is also an option. A few times a week, lasting 30 - 45 minutes will just be okay.
    • Informal exercising at work or home is a must if you seek top health conditioning - climbing stairs, walking short distances, stretching, gardening, playing with kids, etc. You can always think of an activity!
    A conscientious approach that ensures regularity is what is recommended. Just remember: to stay healthy and in shape, you must build physical activity routines into your daily life. No short cut!
  3. Avoidance of Drugs and Cigarette
    Cigarette, alcohol and hard drugs (and even abuse of regular medicine) have been established to amount to poisoning your body. Can you really justify feeding damaging poisons into your body? People find some reasons to hang on to these harmful substances at the expense of long-term longevity, but that seems like short-changing oneself. Do yourself a favour to find a way out of any alcohol or drug problem. Any if you must go for alcohol and cigarette, a moderate does is the most. The danger is in knowing exactly where to stop. Your best bet: zero tolerance.
  4. Weight Control and Management
    Obesity is another confirmed health danger which you don't need. Obesity can do damage to your sense of self-worth, but more importantly, the physical danger in raising your blood pressure and inducing cardio-vascular disease is good reason to watch your weight. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is an accepted measure of relative weight, based on the relationship of weight to height. Medical practice has adopted weight categories of: underweight (BMI 18.5 or less), normal (18.5 - 24.9), overweight (25.0 - 29.9), obese 1 (30.0 - 34.9), obese 11 (35.0 - 39.9), extremely obese (40 or higher). Waist Circumference (WC) is another measure, used in conjunction with BMI for obesity evaluation. The USA National Institutes of Health says a high WC is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension and cardiovascular disease when BMI is between 25 and 34.9. Calculating your BMI is easy - get your height and weight measurements and use online BMI calculators which you can easily access through a quick search. Tanita Body Composition MonitorFor actual body fat content measurement, use a Body Fat Monitor like the one that uses bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) to determine actual body fat content with reasonable accuracy. The Tanita Body Composition Monitor range provides comprehensive readings: body fat, body water, muscle mass, visceral fat and physique rating. Don't let fat clog your system and harm you: get rid of it before it gets you. If you have a weight problem, various weight-reduction and dietary programmes are advertised all the time. Your own commonsense approach on dieting, exercising and healthy living can also get the results you need.
  5. Personal Hygiene Standards
    The hygiene factor in health management is age-old, though people continue to live in unhygienic circumstances and without sufficient regard for personal hygiene. Hygiene touches of many aspects of daily living, from keeping the body (and particularly hands) clean, through ensuring that what you eat is hygienically handled or preserved, to keeping the living environment clean and protected from disease agents. Set high standards of hygiene for your life as this remains of one the strongest shields against infections and disease.
  6. Healthy Sexual Behaviour
    There is no doubt today that one's sexual lifestyle could make or mar. Various major sexual health issues are on the table, with problems like AIDS, STDs, etc posing a serious challenge to good health. While appropriate sexual activity could have positive impact on health, it is clear today that improper sexual conduct is one easy way to short-circuit one's life. The obvious implication is that the individual has a clear choice to make: to promote long term longevity and health quality, a disciplined sexual lifestyle is imperative.

In summary, long-term health management through lifestyle choices is the way to go at this point - it's not only cheaper but also prevents damage to the body system. This ensures top health conditioning and promotes longevity. The good news is that re-ordering one's life pattern is ever possible, if the will is there. Given that we all love life, there is no good reason to recklessly cut it short. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Always has been.

© Copyright 2008

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