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7 wellness tips to kickstart 2006

Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan | January 04, 2006

Don't we all want to be fit and healthy?

image But... Yeah, yeah we are not doing much about it. Right?

Here is a list of seven actual health resolutions for 2006 and how the makers plan to execute them.

Are they on your list? If not, you might consider them. Quite wise resolutions, these. 

Resolution 1: I will eat breakfast

Kiran Arya, 22-year old customer service representative from New Delhi: "I will make sure I never skip breakfast as I always do."

Why this is healthy: Experts say if you HAVE to skip a meal, make sure it is not breakfast. Reason: A healthy breakfast refuels your body after you wake up and gets the metabolism going. People who often skip breakfast because they have no time or are dieting can end up gaining a few kilos because of this habit.

According to Jennifer K Nelson, a registered dietician at Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com, a healthy breakfast can help in the following ways:

~You get more vitamins and minerals and less fat and "bad" cholesterol.
~You develop more strength and endurance.
~You can concentrate better throughout the morning and increase your productivity.
~You can control your weight.

Make sure you include whole grains, low-fat protein, dairy products and fruit in your weekly breakfast menu. A combination of these will provide complex carbohydrates, good quality protein and negligible fat that will delay hunger symptoms for a long time. Choose a breakfast plan that fits your taste and lifestyle, and jump-start your way to good health.

Resolution 2: I will de-stress

Jagruthi Bhatt, 28-year old gynaecologist from Mumbai: "I will de-stress myself and get at least nine hours of sleep a day."

Why this is healthy: Stress on a daily basis takes a toll on your physical and mental health. And yet, in today's world, it is taken for granted. No matter what your job is, day-to-day affairs can lead to a lot of stress. Pent-up emotions can not only cause feelings of distress and promote destructive behaviour, but also lead to physical ailments. Research shows that stress can manifest as diseases of the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and digestive systems.

De-stress yourself by one of these methods: exercise, meditation, yoga, soft music, a warm bath or aromatherapy. If nothing works, you might want to consult a psychologist.

If four to five hours of sleep is all you're getting, you are setting yourself up for major mental health problems. Every healthy individual needs at least eight to nine hours a day. Make sure you get them.

Resolution 3: I will improve my posture at work

Prakash Agrawal, 22-year old IT professional from Mumbai: "I will ensure I maintain a correct posture while working on my computer."

Why this is healthy: Prolonged and regular use of a computer workstation can cause muscle aches and discomfort. Repetitive trauma might even lead to permanent damage. Both posture as well as positioning can help prevent muscle strain. Incorporate these tips into your work day to stay healthy and focused.

Sit all the way back in your chair. Keep your knees equal to or lower than your hips with your feet supported. Use a footstool if possible, especially if you are very short.

Place your mouse and keyboard within close reach. Centre the most frequently used section of the keyboard ('A' key to 'Enter' for most people) exactly in front of you.

Keep the monitor at arm's length and make sure the top of the monitor is only two to three inches above eye level. You should be able to look at the screen straight ahead without turning your head or tilting it up or down.

Hit the keyboard lightly. It is not a typewriter. An average user uses four times the amount of force than necessary.

Take a break. Or several. A one or two-minute break every 20-30 minutes, and five-minute breaks every hour ensures you don't strain your muscles. Take a short walk every few hours.

Learn to type the right way. The hunt-and-peck method and the one-finger method can both lay undue strain on your hand muscles.

Resolution 4: I will get an annual health check-up

Jignesh Kantharia, 28-year old R&D manager from Ahmedabad: "I will schedule an annual executive health check up every year."

Why this is healthy: According to Armin Brott, author of Father for Life, men make 130 million fewer visits to their doctors than women do (not including pregnancy-related visits).

Scheduling an annual exam or routine check-up for all family members with the doctor is a thoughtful New Year gift. This is a good time to touch base with your physician about your health and undergo some preventive screening tests. You can also give your family physician updates on your medical condition and get a complete physical examination.

At your annual exam, be prepared to discuss your general health related queries, new problems discovered at the time of your exam, and ongoing issues that need the doctor's attention.

What does a doctor do at an annual exam?

  • Conduct a general physical exam (including breast exam).
  • Perform a pelvic exam (Pap smear for women to screen for cervical cancer).
  • Ask questions about work situation and general lifestyle.
  • Check your family health history (are there any new serious illnesses in the family?) 
  • Review your past health record.
  • Ask what medication (including herbal and supplements) you are currently taking. 
  • Suggest any supplements if necessary.
  • Evaluate the need for various screening tests based on age and personal and family history (such as mammogram for breast cancer, prostate examination for prostate cancer, tests for sexually-transmitted diseases, and blood sugar levels for diabetes)
  • Check your immunisation record.

Resolution 5: I will avoid crash diets

Veena D'Souza, a 27-year old accent trainer and mother of two from Hyderabad: "I will stop going on crash diets and start maintaining a healthy lifestyle."

Why this is healthy: Just when you think you have finally (and at much cost) shed those extra pounds, they come back on. Your miracle diet turns out to be just a fad. Yes, you did lose some weight initially, but that weight loss soon slowed down. Regular consultations with famous dieticians are too expensive and you can't afford them anymore. Special diet food packs? Same story.

The solution? Be realistic. Stop making resolutions like 'I will never eat dessert in my life' and stick to more practical ones such as 'I will eat dessert only once a week.' Focus on eating adequate servings of whole grains, calcium, fiber, fruit and vegetables. Rather than slashing entire food groups from your diet, choose healthy options, for instance low-fat toned milk instead of whole milk and whole wheat bread instead of white bread.

Diets that promote large amounts of protein and fat, like low-carb diets, might help you lose weight but the effects are short term. Also, not enough research has been done to document the health risks of these diets. Finally, no pain, no gain. A weight loss plan must include regular exercise in addition to a wholesome diet. Remember, no diet can be a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

Resolution 6: I will have dairy products

Bharti Sudarshan, 26-year old artist from Bangalore: "I will drink at least two glasses of milk and have a cup of yoghurt a day."

Why this is healthy: Drinking milk may not sound like a popular health resolution, but it is a crucial one for women and girls of all ages. Many people think that milk is for babies. But this is not true. Watching calcium in your diet is very crucial, especially for women, whose requirements are higher. You can only prevent bone loss and osteoporosis (a bone thinning disease) by consuming an adequate amount of calcium.

Get at least three servings of dairy food a day. A few healthy sources are skim milk, low-fat cheeses, and yoghurt. Non-dairy options for calcium include canned salmon with bones, dark green vegetables, dried beans, and calcium-fortified juices and cereals. Meat is a poor source of calcium. Women can also meet their recommended daily intake using calcium supplements.

Calcium recommendations:

  • Age 11 to 24, 1,200-1,500 mg daily.
  • Age 25 to 50, 1,000 mg daily. 
  • Postmenopausal women 1,000-1,500 mg daily if on menopausal hormone therapy. 
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, 1,200-1,500 mg daily.

Certain foods and medications can weaken bones. A few studies show that aerated drinks can contribute to bone loss. Research also shows that smoking can slow down bone production and consequently lead to bone thinning.

Resolution 7: I will wear a seat belt

Manish Subramanian, 24-year old HR consultant from Chennai: "I will make sure I wear my seat belt. I hate it, but it's important."

Why this is healthy: Fact 1 -- Seat belts are the MOST effective means of decreasing serious injuries and deaths in a traffic accident. Fact 2 -- Yearly, thousands still die in traffic crashes because they neglected Fact 1.

How do seat belts work? When a car crashes, the passengers are still travelling at the car's original speed. So, when it comes to a stop, passengers are thrown against the steering wheel, windshield or another part of the interior. Seat belts are designed such that the forces in a crash are absorbed by the strongest parts of your body: your hips, shoulders and chest. Thus, the risk of injury due to impact is greatly reduced. Seat belts also ensure you are not thrown out of the vehicle. Buckle up. It only takes a few seconds and could save your life.

Still wondering what resolution to make this year? Remember, a healthy resolution can mean a healthier year ahead.

Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan has an MBBS from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, with a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin.

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