Tuesday, July 29, 2008


These days every one is concerned about the quality and safety of life in this planet besieged by pollution, indifferent foods and sedentary living. No one seems to have an answer as to how best one can lead a good quality life with extended longevity. Every one also knows that foods and their consumption pattern have lot to do with the health and consequently the longevity. The anxiety becomes more acute as one retires, finds no fixed avocation and starts ageing with lot of leisure time available. It is in this context that many people try to propound their own 'recipe' for a 'ripe', life though there is no unanimity as to the meaning of ripe life which differs from person to person. One of the most recent reports very pompously declares that the best way to ensure a good quality life is to choose good genes from good parents! Though there is some truth in this claim it poses more questions than an answer. Obviously we have an option on the types of
genes we acquire from the parents and it must be a cruel joke to tell any one about the quality of genes already inherited on which off springs have no control. Having said this one will be tempted to question what guarantee the inheritance of good genes can confer on the off spring a good quality life as the environment, physical, mental and food consumption can adversely affect even the good inherited genes due to mutation and other factors. Another suggestion is keeping away from news papers and electronic media to avoid getting agitated by the horrid stories of murder, rape, burglary, political jugglery, violence, riots etc which form the staple of the media. Of course one can try as it will not do do any harm at least. Some others swear to the fact that if one is not irritated so often during the day to day chores, longevity is assured. It is debatable whether such an ascetic behaviour is feasible in to day's fast moving 'dog eating dog' society one
lives in. Especially in a society like that in India where 'crab in the basket' behaviour is widely prevalent, it is doubtful whether even a hermit can be a silent spectator without reacting to the environment. More over conquering the demon that resides in all human beings, the 'ego' is a challenge by itself. Staying in good company is supposed to prolong life as good company is presumed to be engaged in only happy activities without raising the tempers. could the spouse be best company? Opinions differ but there seems to be a majority view that spouses can be the biggest source of tension driving many to seek avocations keeping the partners separate and engaged in their own avocations for at least some time during the day.Similarly cultivating friends and expanding the family network are considered useful in dissolving family tensions to varying extent but it is mute point as to how many people have adequate time to engage in social activities in a world that lives on a fast pace. Physician is always an integral part of the health of a family and regular consultations, it is said could ensure good health to the entire family. But what is disturbing the paucity of physicians who are true to their Hippocrates oath and have the interests of their clients upper most in their mind. With the cost of medicines sky rocketing every day, the hospitalisation beyond the reach of most middle class families and the cost of health insurance increasing exponentially each year excluding more and people from the health coverage, it is only a pipe dream that regular consultation can be the route to achieve longevity. Other commandments to lead a healthy and long life include avoiding liquor and cigarettes and doing regular exercise which of course can contribute to longevity. But views, however, differ as to whether one can indulge in moderate consumption of alcohol and still stay healthy, though 2 drinks per day have been reported to be beneficial. Similarly doing exercise means different things to different people. Walking, the simplest form of exercise, can do a lot of good to keep one fit, the extent of walking that is ideal still defies unanimity. Walking three times a day for 10 minutes each is claimed to be adequate by some, many others insist on 40-60 minutes walk every day, necessary to cause sweating to ensure good health. Obesity, a very common 'disease' in many affluent countries, definitely cuts down the span of life considerably besides affecting adversely the quality of life one leads during the life time. Why is obesity a major scourge in the world. Simply stated obesity is often caused by excess calorie intake, more than that demanded by the body for leading a particular life style and uncontrolled food consumption, driven more by the desire to eat and consequent palate satisfaction rather than the body requirement. Both the quality and quantity of foods consumed influence the development of obesity. The desire to eat is universal but if the food is not balanced and the quantity is not related to the level of physical activity one performs, the result would be higher BMI leading to over weight/obesity. It is generally agreed that one can always put up with an over weight of 5-6 kg but beyond that weight reduction should be one of the goals to avoid obesity and consequent onset of diabetes, cardiac problems, hyper tension etc. Extreme diets such as Atkins and others are not desirable and any weight reduction effort must aim at reduced calorie and fat consumption accompanied by exercise like walking. It is a fallacy to think that doing exercise alone without cutting on food consumption will achieve weight reduction. Both are necessary. As for quality of food, a healthy diet should focus more on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats confining saturated fats to less than 10% of fat consumption.The ICMR recommendations are based on Indian conditions and can be helpful in maintaining sound health. but as a universal practise, increasing vegetables in the diet as much as possible should the governing guide for better health. Recommendations of 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables are frequently made as ideal situation for normal as well as many health compromised populations world over.


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