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Lack of social bonds can harm you just like smoking, alcohol abuse

By Chioma Obinna

Today is  January 1, 2017. Usually, on this day every year, at least one in five persons resolves to better his life  in different ways.  According to Wikipedia, a New Year resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice.  Unfortunately, a much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions.  Undoubtedly, they are fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.

As you reflect back to 2015, what are those health decisions that you made in 2016 that did not come out very well and those that you missed along the way?  Are there lessons you have learnt about  your health? Did you battle a health disorder last year?  Are you comfortable with your vital signs, (heartbeat, breathing rate, temperature  and blood pressure)?

What are your health plans for this year? Unarguably, while you make plans on how to increase your income and meet the needs of your family, your health is a big factor that would determine the success of all your plans and strategies.   Although  it is hard to keep up the enthusiasm burning months after, experts say being mindful of small behaviour changes can make a lifestyle a healthier one.

In  a study led by Prof. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, researchers  followed 5,000 people as they tried to achieve their New Year’s resolutions.   They found that those who failed to achieve their goals often did not have a plan, making their resolution seem impossible.  Some of those who failed were also found to focus more on the downside of not achieving their goals, fantasized about their goals and relied on will-power alone. The  study recommended that the key to success is by breaking down resolutions into smaller and more specific goals.

Again, findings show that apart from the occasional shortcomings, people think they are maintaining their health with good eating habits, and moderate physical activity.  But the  one million question you should ask yourself is, is it really enough to be considered healthy?  Here are four criteria commonly used to measure healthfulness:   Are you a non-smoker?

Are you able to maintain a healthy weight (a BMI of 18-25), or are you successfully losing weight to attain a healthy weight?

Do you eat a well-balanced diet that includes at least  five servings of fruits and vegetables daily?

Do you exercise 30 minutes or more, five  times a week?

Experts say while these four habits are unarguably important for a healthy lifestyle, there are  additional factors that also should be taken into consideration to make you healthier in the New Year.

Keeping your health resolutions

Having the result of the findings in mind, experts recommend  that to make a healthier new year, you must come up with a fitness regimen, and make your exercise goals more specific.  This is because specific goals are more concrete and more action-oriented, compared to general goals that seem too big to achieve.

There is also the need for you to personalise your resolutions and tailor it to what you really need. Invest your energy into something you need to change.

Track down your progress and write it down.  Studies show that writing them down can help you stick to your goals and cope with depression.

Schedule time for yourself, your family and friends, according to experts, having more time for your loved ones can help you look forward to something positive, and it can make you more productive and lessen anxiety.  In a 2010 study, it was found that lack of social bonds can harm you as much as smoking and alcohol abuse does.

However, beyond the four basics, there are much healthy behaviours that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one’s lifestyle:

*Eat a variety of foods daily to get the energy, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre the body needs.  Include plenty of vegetables and fruits (preferably raw) and whole grains.

* Brush and floss daily to keep teeth and gums healthy and free of disease.

* Have a positive attitude.  Being optimistic and believing in oneself, while being surrounded by good support systems, helps lead to success.

* Get a good night’s rest.  Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but also may have better control of their appetites.  Research has shown that a lack of sleep can put “hunger hormones” out of balance – and possibly trigger overeating.

* Enjoy regular family meals.  This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations.

* Drink at least eight glasses of water per day, or more for those who exercise regularly.

* Eat pure, natural foods. Moderate intake of fat, cholesterol, sugars and salt.

* Set a 5-meal ideal.  What, when, and how much a person eats can keep both the metabolism and energy levels steadily elevated, so as to provide more all-day energy.   A 5-meal ideal will help manage weight, control mood, maintain focus and avoid cravings.

* Smile and laugh out loud several times a day.  Laughter can keep individuals grounded, and help them cope with situations that would otherwise cause possible irritation.

* Meditate, pray or otherwise find solace for at least 10 to 20 minutes each day.  It may even help lower your blood pressure.

* Stand up straight.  You’ll look five pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles.

* Try various exercises such as yoga, Pilates and swimming.  These help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance.

*Power up the protein.  This nutrient is an essential part of a healthy eating plan, and can make up 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories.

Health conditions you must watch in the New Year

Eating healthily: Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love rather it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and stabilizing your mood.  We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems, but your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of wellbeing. Studies have linked eating a typical Western diet—filled with processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks—with higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Eating an unhealthy diet may even play a role in the development of mental health disorders such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia, or in the increased risk of suicide in young people.   So eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking meals at home, and reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, on the other hand, may help to improve mood and lower your risk for mental health problems. If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health problem, eating well can even help to manage your symptoms and regain control of your life.

Hypertension:  It is no longer news that the prevalence of hypertension is growing among the populace.  The only way to know (diagnose) if you have high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is to have your blood pressure tested. Understanding your blood pressure numbers is key to controlling high blood pressure.  It is measured in Systolic  (mm Hg upper)   and Diastolic (mm Hg lower #).

A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional.  Prehypertension is when blood pressure is consistently ranging from 120-139/80-89 mm Hg. People with prehypertension are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.

When blood pressure is consistently ranging from 140-159/90-99 mm Hg and at this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication.

Also, when blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels greater than 160/100 mm Hg, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.

If your blood pressure is higher than 180/110 mm Hg and you are not experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, changes in vision or difficulty speaking, wait about five minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level,  you must get help immediately.

 Diabetes:  Controlling diabetes is a challenge but eating the right foods, having the right diet and blood testing will help greatly.   This can be done for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes with food, diet and regular blood testing.  A blood glucose monitor is an excellent tool for managing diabetes.  Some of us will be very familiar with using a blood glucose meter but for others it will be something new.

Testing before and after meals can be a useful technique for measuring how different meals affect our sugar levels and help to improve our diet and dosage decisions.

 Overweight:  Your weight has been important since the moment you were born. Maybe you even know what your birth weight was. Most newborns weigh between 6 and 9 pounds, but some may weigh more and some less.  But very quickly, a baby gains weight and everyone is glad about that because it means the child is growing bigger and stronger.   As you get older, your weight is still important.   But these days, being overweight is more common than being underweight.  When people talk about being overweight or obese, they mean that someone has more body fat than is healthy. Everyone has some body fat, but excess fat can affect someone’s health and ability to walk, run, and get around, as well as how the person looks and his or her self-esteem.   Adult Body Mass Index (BMI) Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness.  If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range. If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal.  If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.  If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.



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