We always hear about keeping fit, healthy and adopting a healthy lifestyle. What does that mean? You’ll often come across people saying: “Oh, I eat well, work well, sleep well, and I have no disease; I’m a healthy person.”
Well, the fact is despite these assertions a person may still be leading an unhealthy life. Have you heard of this: “I just met Mr. X; we had a good time together; he was OK; I can’t believe he’s passed away? Aren’t you joking?”
Yes, this is a common feature today. Many people suffer from health problems like high blood pressure, stress, cardiovascular disease and diabetes without knowing, until they find themselves in the doctor’s consultation room for an emergency.
Yet there are visible risk factors associated with these. Physical inactivity, bad eating, smoking and alcohol consumption habits, obesity, age, and family history are all factors that contribute to worsen your health, slowly but surely.
Oh, I mentioned “habits”; the topic of the post is about “rituals”. So let’s get things clear before going any further.
A habit is a passive, automatic and often unconscious behaviour, done in repetition although the outcomes may not be positive.
Whereas a ritual is something you do deliberately and consciously with a clear purpose in mind. It is more powerful than habit.
A habit may be good or bad. What you need to do is to adopt those habits that are good and turn them into rituals with a clear and specific objective in mind.
OK? Right, over now to the rituals to help you maintain a healthier lifestyle.
1. Eat healthy
- Know what you eat, how and how much. Don’t eat with your eyes; they may mislead you over a sensible portion. Don’t eat in between meals. Be reasonable. Be moderate.
- Eat more fruits, salads and veggies
- Take low fat or fat free dairy foods
- If you are non-vegetarian, go for lean meat, poultry and fish
- Check your sodium intake: less of it, more of herbs and spices
- Grains, nuts, seeds and dry beans are all right
- Check your sugar consumption
- Check if you have enough daily fluid intake. Six to eight glasses (about 1.2 litres) of fluid a day are recommended by the UK Food Standard Agency, based on fluid lost by the body; although a recent study by scientists at University of Pennsylvania rules out the actual beneficial toxin-flushing-ability of water. “There’s no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water,” they say. Anyhow, remember that you need to take adequate fluid to avoid dehydration.
2. Be physically active
- Unfortunately, modern technology has rendered life more sedentary. People confine themselves to their car, office and home with little if at all any significant physical activity. You need not do vigorous physical activity, nor run or jog. Just simple activities can help maintain a good posture, lower blood pressure, burn the calories and the body fat and improve the circulatory and heart problems. So what in essence can you do?
- Walk. The Executive Health Organisation says walking is a very efficient exercise and is the only one that you can follow all the years of your life. Studies have yielded definite improvement in health and proved beneficial to the heart and weight-loss of thousands of people.
- Do some household chores, like gardening, sweeping, washing (car, floor, etc), cleaning the yard. These may not be vigorous exercises, yet will keep you on the move usefully.
- Leave your car or motorcycle when you proceed to the nearby grocery, bakery or market. Walk. The idea is to break your sedentariness.
- If you can, do some exercise, like swimming, cycling, dancing, skiing, etc. This will help reduce stress, improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, maintain bone mass, prevent osteoporosis and fractures and improve memory in the elderly.
Remember however that there are conflicting views about how much exercise you should do. Some believe 20 minutes per day is sufficient; others recommend one hour per day. Scientific research and studies indicate that a roughly-20-minute-a-day exercise, although will not melt off your kilos, can significantly prevent your cardiac risks.
3. Keep your weight under control
- Heavy weight is considered a major cardiac risk factor. So all you need to do is maintain a healthy weight. Now what is a healthy weight? Put simply it is one that respects your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. It is obtained from dividing your body weight (in kg) by the square of your height (in centimetres).
- Underweight if your BMI is equal to or below 18.5
- Normal weight, between 18.5 and 24.9
- Overweight, between 25.0 and 29.9
- Obese, if your BMI is 30 and above.
4. Quit or avoid smoking and drinking
- It’s no news: smoking tobacco has negative effects on nearly every organ of the body. It impairs overall health. From lung cancer to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases smoking remains the leading cause of death that can be prevented.
- Like smoking, alcohol affects every organ in the body. Beer, wine, and liquor contain an intoxicating ingredient in the form of ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Alcohol is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. It acts on the central nervous system with depressive outcomes. How intense is the effect of alcohol on the body depends on the amount consumed, not the type of alcoholic drink.
- The choice is clear. If you smoke or consume alcohol quit, or simply avoid.
5. Keep a medical watch
A medical surveillance will go a long way in keeping any health inconsistencies in check. Make it a ritual to:
- Visit your health institution. Talk to your doctor. Keep a health diary and follow-up regularly.
- Take any prescribed drugs as may be directed.
- Don’t grab any dietary medication or “health pills” from the street corner shop; seek appropriate specialized medical advice if you intend to go for a dietary programme. Pseudo-medical advisors and self-medication can do more harm than good. Your health control needs to be adapted to your metabolic set up.
If you follow these rituals there’s no reason why you should not enjoy a better health. You can start at any age. A small step can make all the difference. If you eat healthy, stop smoking and do more exercise you could have an extra 12 years’ life. In fact, a study from the University of Cambridge reveals that:
- You can live up to five years longer if you eat five fruits and vegetables
- You could have another four to five years if you stop smoking
- You can have up to three years extra life if you do more exercise.
The choice is yours now.
If you have any other suggestions for an improved lifestyle I’d be pleased to read about them.
To your health.
Mauritian residing in Rodrigues, Amanoola Khayrattee (pen name Alfa King) is contributing writer and journalist to La Gazette Mag de l’océan indien and This Week News Mauritius.
Retired, former meteorological cadre, trade unionist and OSH consultant, Amanoola has written for in-house union and other journals, publications and magazines. He runs two blogs since 2007: “Alfa King Memories”, and “Le Journal d’Alfa King”. When he is not reading or writing, he is on a 10+ km daily hike in anticipation of his monthly trails.
Amanoola may be reached at [email protected].