“HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOURSELF? AND WHAT DOES ‘KNOW YOURSELF’ HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR HEALTH? A LOT”
Dr NARESH TREHAN Cardiovascular surgeon, CMD, Medanta: The Medicity, Gurgaon
Knowing your body, how it works, and the environment you live in are the key to being proactive about your health. There are three things one has to work out. First, know your genes. They will tell you about your chances of getting the three most common and devastating diseases. If there is coronary heart disease in either your mother or father, you have double the chance of getting heart disease: 20 per cent. If both parents have it, then there is 30 per cent chance.
Then there is diabetes. If one parent has it, children have 25 per cent chance of getting it. If both parents do, chances go up to 50 per cent. Cancer is the third risk. Some people inherit gene faults that enhance their risk of developing particular types of cancers. BRCA genes carry risks of breast and ovarian cancers to the next generation, something Hollywood actor Angelina Jolie has. Other inherited genes are linked to other cancers; some gene faults can increase the risk of more than one type of cancer. However, some people with a predisposing genetic variation never get the disease while others do, within the same family.
Second, understand your own body structure and how you treat it. There is a mismatch today between the quality and quantity of food we eat, our energy intake and output, especially because of sedentary lifestyles. We need to balance that. You need to do three things for that: reduce oil-based products, sugar and carbohydrate and eat more fruits and vegetables, keeping in mind the ultimate calories these foods give your body. On an average, an adult needs about 1,600 calories a day. To match that consumption, you need 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise—gym, walk, jog, swim—to keep your circulation in good shape.
Third is the environment and how it can create a huge amount of stress, leading to high blood pressure and the thickening of arteries. The best way to neutralise stress is through yoga and pranayam. Asanas neutralise the effect of sitting for long, stooping over computers, waiting in traffic for hours, keep your body flexible, your bones healthy. Pranayam gives higher quantity of oxygen to your brain because you are taking a deep breath and holding it, allowing 200 per cent oxygen to your brain, which refreshes serotonin and dopamine levels. A stress buster, you must do that every 24 hours. It also cleans your lungs. Along with it, avoid tobacco and alcohol in excess: no more than 60 cc in 24 hours, no more than four times a week.