What is Healthy lifestyle
The habits, attitudes, tastes, moral & ethical standards, economic level, cultural practices etc., together constitute a life style or a mode of living of an individual or a group. Our health is affected by a wide variety of factors, from the genes that we inherit from our parents to the climate we live in and the work we do.
From what we eat and drink, to how much we exercise, and whether we smoke or take drugs; all will affect our health, not only in terms of life expectancy but how long we can expect to live without experiencing chronic disease. Lifestyle diseases are a result of an inappropriate relationship of people with their environment.
Why is it so important for us to learn about it now?
The onset of these lifestyle diseases is insidious - they take years to develop - and once manifest, these diseases do not lend themselves easily to cure. One may have to live with them, exhausting all their resources-physical, mental, social and financial.
India has a weak heart, and a sweet tooth or so says the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to the WHO, by 2025, with about 5.72 crore diabetes patients, India will have the highest number of diabetes patients in the world. India has a weak heart, and a sweet tooth, so says the World Health Organisation (WHO). Our metros already have diabetes patients exceeding ten percent of the population.
To make matters worse, we will also have 60 per cent of the total cardiac disease patients of the world. We thus will have the dubious distinction of being the epicentre of diabetes and cardiac patients of the world. In addition, addiction to alcohol and nicotine has resulted in an increase in liver, respiratory & cardiovascular diseases. The leading cause of heart disease in young people is found to be the habit of smoking.
The conventional fire-fighting health measures wherein 'cure' is dispensed could not even arrest the infectious and malnutrition related health problems so far.
As aptly mentioned in the WHO'S 1997 Health Report: 'still struggling with ailments linked to poverty. developing countries are paying a price for mimicking western lifestyle with an upsurge in diseases of affluence i.e. hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and cancer'.
Thus, efforts to encourage good health practices should also promote environments that support them.
It's never too late to change habits, and by establishing a healthy lifestyle now, one can continue to reap the rewards in the future. Encourage people to discover the facts behind nutrition and exercise so that one can make choices.
There are four important aspects affecting the health of a society: food, water, work and leisure. Let us take a close look in to these four aspects:
Importance of Food for healthy lifestyle
The food that the society chooses has many implications. Presently, a particular food is chosen because of:
3.Socio Cultural reasons
4.Governments' interventions at various levels, etc.
It is the human beings' ingenuity that they explored and systematized a food production system known as 'agriculture', millennia ago.
In this system some intelligent and observant population groups found certain crops to produce more and in turn can give them leisure so that some sections of the society can work towards creating a higher level of civilization.
The food production systems varied from place to place and the food crops themselves were chosen strictly based on their adaptability and nativity in those local habitats.
Various factors like the geographical locations, the topography, the precipitation, the types of soils, the local climate and the experiential knowledge at any given time dictated as to what food crops have to be grown and when.
As the system of agriculture went through constant improvisation and fine tuning, the societies also have undergone tremendous changes in terms of division of labour, skill acquisition and food culture.
It is this food culture that enveloped and enriched the local groupings, societies and nations by its diversity. In India, the village has come to symbolize the food culture and the people have identified the food as central to all their rituals.
These rituals have touched every aspect of Indians' life right from birth to death, and beyond.
The pre-industrial Indian society viewed food as giving nourishment physically, intellectually, culturally and spiritually.
The religious and caste components embedded in Indian society have played their due role, thus making it even more rich and intricate.
While the post-industrial era & ethos speaks a language of food in terms of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, trans-fats, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, soluble and insoluble fibre, the Indian society and its people find, to their utter dismay, that these terms are not fitting well into their cultural and social settings.
There is a deep sense of anguish and conflict as the dietary habits and the food itself is undergoing rapid changes in time and space.
A once highly evolved food culture has now reached a dead end and is facing extreme turbulence as it negotiates a path riddled with conflicting needs, fads and market forces. The primary reason for this situation is, Indians, farmers included, have come to consider food as a commodity.
Since commodities have to have some standards and worth, some food crops are already on their way out, if not disappearing all together.
In the inter play of state policy, market forces and modern medicine, some foods and connected crops have become a casualty as they are not considered worth cultivating and marketable. In the process, the Indian society is paying dearly both ways: environmental and health wise.
This phenomenon can best be explained through the example of Andhra Pradesh's experience: With the advent of green revolution technologies, high yielding rice varieties, chemical fertilizers and pesticides and construction of huge dams and reservoirs, some areas had switched over from millet based agriculture to paddy farming while some other areas turned to non-food cash crops.
This resulted in lesser food diversity and domination of a single food crop i.e. rice. The excess production of rice resulted in a chain reaction wherein the market forces have ensured the absorption of the excess rice in the millet growing & eating areas - through the introduction of two- rupees-a-kilo-rice-scheme, eventually necking out the millet culture itself. This single state policy intervention has put pressure on many fronts, such as environment, water resources, fertilizer production, and energy resources.
The second example is that of the state of Punjab. The people struggling to get admission in hospital in order to get cure for a serious/incurable ailment, cancer, the cause of which is the action of the patient himself; and the forces and the developmental programmes that are behind his/their actions.
The Bhatinda-Bikaneer (the infamous Cancer Express) episode amply demonstrates the fault lines of an elaborate, costly health-care system going haywire.
The real change should come through a change in the agricultural practices. For example, had it been chemical-free agriculture the Bhatinda episode (it's only a tip of the iceberg) would not have happened in the first place.
Now, as a consequence of it, the nation is facing the nutritional deficiency in the foods produced on the one hand and an escalating disease burden on the other. It is, now, the society's and governments' responsibility to see that the health of the people is not compromised in the name of growth and development.
The changed dietary habits of a vast population impacted the health of the people at large, apart from hygiene and sanitation.
Vector-borne diseases have been on the rise due to water intensive agricultural practices, water-borne diseases due to chemical pollution (once these Persistent Organic Pollutants-POPs) enter our food chain, as they are water soluble and have an affinity for the fat tissue of living beings, get accumulated in the fat tissue and disrupt the endocrinal activity as they are known Endocrinal Disruptors (EDRS).
Added to all this, high carbohydrate diet, devoid of nutrition, is the cause of nutritional related health problems. The complex food- society-health matrix has a telling effect on the nation's health and is threatening to acquire epidemic proportions.
The present-day modern society is embroiled in a dilemma as to what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat. We may be able to manufacture nutritious food strictly adhering to the modern prescribed standards at great cost to the environment, but we will not be able to satisfy the diverse tastes and other cultural needs of the population.
The guiding principles that should be kept in mind while choosing appropriate food for a given society are: to eat locally grown foods that the soils would support on a sustainable basis, chemical-free, energy-efficient foods and foods that are grown out of environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. The ultimate mantra at individual level is moderation, not ration. Eat only when hungry.
Importance of Water for healthy lifestyle
Water is life. Water is used for many purposes, not just for drinking alone.
As our river systems, water streams and reservoirs get polluted with the effluents of industries, domestic and sewerage wastes from cities and towns and application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture, the quality of water and its potability is a big question mark.
Added to this, the unsustainable and over drawl of underground water is giving rise to consumption of fluoride and toxic minerals with all the attendant health risks.
Our demand on a particular type of food is imposing severe strain on the environment even though it, being of monoculture origin and of water-guzzling nature, is not healthy in the first place. For ex: to produce kilogram of rice requires nearly 4000 liters of irrigated water, whereas a millet crop is entirely dependent on rain water.
The paddy cultivation further invites vector-borne and mosquito-borne diseases due to water logging. one
The society must be sensitized about the deteriorating situation and all efforts must be made to see that water is not polluted at the source.
The society, as a whole, must discipline itself and adopt measures that would prevent or lessen pollution/contamination at every stage of human activity.
Fresh, unpolluted and clean water is the motto.
Importance of Exercise for healthy lifestyle
It is senseless to work/exercise for the sake of exercise. One should be creative and enjoy the work. Every society sustains itself through some work ethic wherein physical activity is embedded. Physical work should give pleasure to the mind.
The present frantic pace at which the society is running after growth and prosperity has resulted in sedentary life. Sedentary life style leads to morbidity. thus increasing the disease burden on the society and the national exchequer.
Health Benefits of regular physical activity
1.Increases physical fitness, helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints, builds endurance and muscular strength.
2.Helps manage weight, lowers risk factors for cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
3.Helps control blood pressure.
4.Promotes psychological well-being and self-esteem, reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
Misconceptions & Myths about Exercise:
Exercise is not about working out and feeling too tired to move afterwards. Actually, exercise is about feeling good while taking responsibility for one's health. Studies show the simple act of taking a walk for 30 minutes a day may provide health benefits.
There are many forms and types of exercises. Exercise does not have to be running 5 miles or lifting 200 pounds. Exercise can be playing, yoga, washing clothes or car or gardening. Myths:
If you are thin, you're fit: Being thin is no indication of how efficient your heart, lungs and muscles are. Many thin people actually have more than the recommended percentage of body fat.
Sit-ups get rid of stomach fat: "Spot reducing" is a myth. Fat is reduced proportionally throughout the body.
• Sweat loss means weight loss: You do lose weight temporarily when you sweat, but this is mostly water loss, not fat loss, and is regained as you quench your thirst.
The mantra is to be 'physically active'. But, mere physical work, be it exercise, yogasanas or otherwise, without the positive involvement of mind, is mere drudgery. To get out of this vicious cycle, one needs to use limbs as frequently and as efficiently as possible.
Importance of Leisure for healthy lifestyle
Leisure is the time when you don't have to do anything. To occupy this time creatively makes it a recreation.
It could be social gatherings, social work, singing, dancing, festivals etc. that will nourish the mind and heart and connect one to another. A harmonious interpersonal relationship is the key to a stable, peaceful and healthy society.
Nuclearisation of the family and the unidirectional competitive environment is playing havoc with, and disturbing the social equilibrium, negating the collective achievements of the society itself.
The participation of individuals, both parents and children, in community activities that aim at removing privation and usher in the spirit of cooperation and mutual help would bring about. desired results.
These activities can range from conflict resolution, volunteerism, counselling, imbibing the spirit of equality and tolerance, positive engagement with the less advantaged and sick persons. The mantra is to derive happiness and satisfaction by doing some selfless work.
The fear of disease should not be a cause for adopting a particular lifestyle. The significance of food, water, work and leisure lies in their being holistically treated as one whole lifestyle and it should not degenerate into being treated them as separate capsules of remedy and medicine.
In the light of the above four important factors, for any lifestyle to be adopted the bottom line is - it should generate 'zest for life'. And any activity, be it physical or mental, should make one look forward to a thrilling and vibrant tomorrow.
Hence, a more inclusive heath policy should emerge to sensitize people and health-care givers on the above said four factors to reduce the disease burden on society and the burden on national exchequer.
Author : Dr. S. K. Vyas
Reference:: National Institute of Naturopathy Pune, INDIA