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Top ten health questions you SHOULD ask yourself!

Last updated on: December 29, 2011 18:20 IST

Top ten health questions you SHOULD ask yourself!

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Shameem Akhtar

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center poses top ten health questions that you may want to ask yourself, as the new year looms interestingly ahead, so you may face it with robust health.

Most of us take health for granted. As long as we are not physically challenged and can get through a day without some health condition nagging us, we assume we are perfectly healthy. But most us also secretly know that this assumption is not quite true.

Health is an investment. It comes from choices and effort, even in youth. It also involves daily commitment. A sudden nasty blimp on the health horizon never happens in isolation. It is always led by earlier neglect.
 
1. Can you touch your feet when you bend forward?

This seems like a simple enough task. However, it involves effort not just from the spine, as most assume, but also from supple legs, an elastic spine, superbly toned back muscles and a firm band of core muscles, that include a toned abdomen.
 
If you are not able to touch your toes when you bend forward, it could mean several health risks: impaired blood circulation from poor muscle tone and could indicate blood circulation problems.

It could mean stiff legs: interestingly even those who walk or run have very stiff legs. They need to do more stretches to prevent future knee injuries. Strong and supple back muscles prop the spine and take the load off the entire body, including the knees.

A flat stomach is not just aesthetic but also implies a strong band of core muscles that further support the entire body.
 
Stretches that cover the whole body are an ideal way to clear this clog in your body.


Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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2. Can you balance on one leg?

This simple task can surprise and embarrass even children these days as they increasingly choose sedentary mode of entertainment and games. An ability to maintain balance is a physical skill that indicates a strong proprioception. This is a sense of oneself in space and is an important kinaesthetic experience for the body as it moves. Behind this simple task the cerebellum and the balancing system in your inner ear are involved.

Scientists are still discovering several tasks the cerebellum is involved with: impulse control, cognitive skills, learning new things amongst others. So, an inability to stay upright on one leg could lead, in a few years, lead to impairment on all these fronts.

Balancing poses, training on the gym ball, using core board are some exercise forms to reintroduce the body to this skill.


Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
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3. Can you reach your left arm behind to grasp your right hand from below. And vice versa?

This is an interesting health test which can indicate if you are well aligned on both sides. Most people have a huge gap between the left and right hands, and are often shocked to find this out. The gap may indicate a slight postural misalignment that may not just affect gait, but also blood flow according to yoga.

Also, it may later lead to spinal issues of the upper back and neck. This is common in most of us as we enter our twenties, and occurs because we are predominantly right handed. (The other side will affect the left-handed). Also, the right side of our body affects our left hemisphere and vice versa. In yoga, to balance both sides of the body is to harmonise your brain too.

Shoulder circles, upper body stretches would help reverse this misalignment in just a few weeks.


Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
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4. Can you take the stairs without becoming breathless?

Many people fear they are heading for an attack when they become breathless and avoid such exertions altogether. They may not be far off the mark because it just shows that your heart and lungs are finding this simple task tough and have started losing their tone. Instead of going into a misguided protective mode that makes most people avoid such simple tasks altogether, it may be taken as an alert to invite tone back into these systems through phased exercise.

The heart services blood vessels that, if placed end to end, will cover the entire earth in its circumference. Obviously it needs exercise. And a sedentary lifestyle, it has been found, is more dangerous than chain smoking. The breathlessness is merely an indication that the heart is beginning to lose tone and you need to get it into a repair mode.

Walking is a good start. Slowly increasing the pace, then including other exercises would go a long way in reversing this condition.


Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com
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5. Can you hum for long?

This is a test to check your lung capacity. Any sound is an exhalation. The inhalation that follows is automatic and its depth is actually affected by your exhalation. The deeper you exhale, creating a vacuum effect, the more air you draw into the lungs. However, most people do things topsy-turvy when they breathe, especially when doing physical tasks that need effort. Most people focus on inhaling, straining at it.

However, unless the exhalation is deep and relaxed, the inhalation would be pretty much ineffective. Checking to see how long your hum is, after one breath, will indicate to you how you  breathe on a normal basis.

Efficient breathing affects your mood and stress quotient.

Focusing on your breath is a simple way to relax your breathing and deepen it. This is known to encourage respiratory efficiency. Practising other breathing exercises would also up your lung volume considerably.


Photographs: Actor, director, singer Dhanush in a still from song Kolaveri D
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6. Is breakfast your heaviest meal?

This has been repeated umpteen times by many health articles. However, given our current lifestyles we tend to neglect it, making our breakfast light while we drool over a large and late dinner.

A large breakfast is important because the body's biological clock ticks in such a way that maximum nutrient absorption is designed around what you eat at that meal.

If you eat your heaviest meal for the day by 11 am, according to yoga, your small intestine is ready for absorbing nutrients from that meal by 2 pm.  After that, the food intake should progressively get lighter, since the digestive system is getting into a go-slow mode.



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7. When was the last time you learnt something new?

The keenness to learn something new comes from the neurochemical dopamine, which is referred to as the explorer hormone because it enhances the curiosity in you. Dopamine is part of the feel-good, reward neurochemicals. Learning something new -- maybe to use a new gadget, a dancing skill, some art form such as sculpting or pottery or attending a hobby class to pick up a skill like beading could be all it takes to make you feel alive and vital.

Tweaking the feel-good centres in our brain helps to keep us not just alive but also feeling vital. Learning something could be the easiest route towards this. Also, it has been found that aging -- whether it refers to our brain or the body as a whole -- happens from long-term neglect. One area that is often neglected is the brain -- mental effort required to learn something new actually 'muscles' and tones our mind, and keeps us youthful and energetic overall.



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8. When was the last time you visited your dentist?

Amazingly, though Indian dentists are attracting foreigners (or hospital tourists') we ourselves visit our dentists only when we have some dental problem troubling us. However having a good set of teeth could be more than a sparkling smile. It has been found that bad teeth could actually lead to circulatory and cardiac problems.

It is because the mouth forms the perfect site for anaerobic bacteria which then leads to other complications by moving into the body. If you have a  sensitive gums or gaps between gum and tooth you must see your dentist very soon!
 
Soft toothbrush that does not damage the gums, salt water mouth rinses, keep the gums healthy and may be a great way to strengthen your heart.



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9. How often do you take stretch breaks in a working day?

Progressive companies are said to give out electronic alerts to their workers, to indicate the time for stretch breaks. As we wrote earlier in this copy, a sedentary lifestyle can be more dangerous than chain smoking. Interestingly, it has been found that an impaired or sluggish circulation can be the cause of many ailments, not just cardiac problems but also dementia and brain damage.

Encouraging the blood to move over the body in a systematic way could be the easiest route to health. This is true for even those who may exercise daily. Having an hour of daily exercise may be healthy. But is equally important to move or stretch several times during a day, especially if you have a sedentary work-style.
 
Having several stretch breaks during the day could mean clearing the lymphatic system (which, unlike other systems like the blood, does not have a pumping mechanism and needs our movements to keep it functioning efficiently), preventing water retention, keeping joints supple and lubricated, and removing the state of chronic fatigue syndrome.



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10. When did you go out on a relaxing holiday?

It has been found that the stress over the week may be better handled if you have planned a relaxing or fun filled weekend. Basically, it means you should plan something  which you are looking forward to. This could mean just curling up with your favourite book, catching a film you had meant to see, or anything that for you is fun, relaxing or me-time.

Looking forward towards something can blunt the edge off stress. Stress, it has been found, is the silent killer in all our lives. The sense of being in a rut can cause serious psycho-somatic ailments, including high and low blood pressure, clinical depression, tension headaches, neck/ shoulder problems and  digestive disorders.
 
Creating definite ways to unwind or going off on a holiday could mean more than fun. It could mean perfect health.



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