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ACHIEVING OPTIMAL HEALTH

Keeping Healthy

We all possess a body which serves us well. However, the status of the same is a cause for concern for all of us. We carry on with our lives with minor functional upsets, aches and pains with a feeling deep down that all is not well with this machine, which we possess from birth to death, and a guilt that ‘we need to and should be doing something to keep this machine fit and fine’. That brings us to a question – “Why do we abuse our bodies?” (Given a fact that we have some basic knowledge about how we should be). My personal feeling is that we abuse this machine because we all have got it free of cost at birth – structurally and functionally intact. The value of a missing or a non functional part can only be told to us in detail by a person who has been unfortunate in not getting the same from the Divine power that be. And the importance of the same can be realised from the data regarding the amount of funding that is spent to study the deficiency in the human body and the super human effort that is put into correcting the same. Please be aware that the deficiencies that are being spoken about are existential in maybe one in a million or even lesser proportion of the general population. The point that I am trying to make is that – The least we can do to repay God or the Divine power that has gifted us with this fabulous machine that we possess and term as the ‘human body’ is to maintain it well.
In order to maintain the body well we need to understand the basic parameters by which we can measure health. As with any parameters we have measurements for “Optimal Health”. There are four pillars of Optimal Health – Rest, Nutrition, Exercise and Positive Mental Attitude (PMA).

Rest

At least 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep is essential for the body to recuperate from the daily wear and tear. The sleep is for two types of healing - physiological and psychological. The first half i.e 4 hours are needed for physiological or structural healing and the next half is needed for psychological healing. It has been observed that people who have a very positive frame of mind and practise pranayam or meditation need less of the second half of sleep i.e the part for psychological healing and hence such people feel rejuvenated and rested even after lesser duration of sleep. So the lesson to be learnt is that by daily practice of meditation or pranayam (15 mins) and PMA we can reduce our duration of sleep. People who sleep less due to work or other factors are going through a chronic burn out which may ultimately lead to lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, High Blood pressure, Metabolic syndrome, etc.

Nutrition

The daily intake of macro nutrients – Carbohydrates, Proteins and Lipids (Fat) and micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, trace metals and phytophenols in the right proportions ensure a long and healthy life. As such nutrition is a vast topic and shall be dealt with in detail in another article. However, few important observations we need to practice daily are:

  1. Protein is necessary for repair of damaged and diseased tissues. Normally we need about 1 g/kg body weight daily in our diet and for people recovering from illness, surgery, pregnant women and nursing mother this goes up to 1.5 g/kg/day. People with kidney disorders need lesser amounts as advised by their specialist.
  2. Not all fats/ lipids are bad and they don’t have to be avoided totally. Lipids are necessary but in right proportion. Avoid food with trans fat.
  3. c) Phytophenols are compounds which are derived from plants. An easy way to understand this to eat food in natural form in as many different colours as possible. Colour the diet richly and stay healthy. Some example of colour in the diet is – carrot, beet root, jamun, mango, pomegranate, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, sprouts, rice, flour, milk and/or milk products, oranges, grapes, melon etc. This is also the focus of research and development of the emerging Nutraceuticals industry. Preferably have about 400 g of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Spices in moderation. Avoid processed, refined and super refined foods (fast foods).

Exercise

About 30 to 45 mins of outdoor aerobic activity 5 to 6 times a week followed by 15 to 30 min of meditation or pranayam. The simplest and most reliable exercise to stay fit is brisk walking or light jogging/ running. People who have cardiac or respiratory compromise should check with their doctors before starting an exercise programme. Keep yourself well hydrated during and after exercise. Wear warm clothes to avoid sudden cooling of the body and have a proper cushioned foot wear – especially for overweight people to avoid knee problems. Have a measured carbohydrate meal preferably within 30 to 45 min of your exercise. More details about exercise shall be covered while discussing parameters of Optimal Health below.

Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)

Positive Mental Attitude is the most important aspect of not only our health but also our lives. It seems quite pertinent to refer to the age old adage – ‘Sound mind in a sound body’. We should feed our minds with positive thoughts and ideas on a daily basis. This way we shall stay internally motivated and shall achieve more in life. One should freely and unhesitatingly associate, read, listen, talk and interact with positive minded people who uplift us. All of us have interacted with such people and felt satiated and happy. Having negative thoughts is like having a good army with a lousy leader. Stay away from negative influencing people and media like television, newspapers, etc. One must know the news and events but it is not necessary to know all the trivia and gory details of the negative news or events. Cultivating a habit of reading self help and positive books shall help us stay positive and discover our dimensions which we presumed never existed. Listen to motivational speakers and grow into a habit of going to bed reading a positive book. That way we shall sleep well and wake up refreshed. In depth discussion of this aspect of our lives shall be dealt with later.

So you must be wondering – What’s so new about all this? I already know all of this. Well the trick is not in knowing this but in practicising this on a daily basis. We must cultivate a disciplined, consistent and persistent regime and adhere to it religiously. The motive behind the regimented work shall be to stay within the Optimal parameters of health which we shall discuss below. Once we design our regime and stick to it we shall stay in Optimal Health and enjoy our lives to its maximum without any worries of ill health or sickness. Not only that but we shall be able to delay the onset of age related degenerative disorders by a good 10 to 12 years.
The various parameters are as follows:

Body Weight

Body Weight is of prime concern to one and all concerned. The ideal weight to maintain is determined by a simple equation. This is applicable for people above 20 years of age. First measure your height in inches. For example the height of an adult if 5 feet 10 inches. So the height in inches is 70 inches. Now convert this in kg, so the conversion is 70 kg. The ideal weight for an adult male would be between 90 % and 100 % of 70 kg, which means between 63 kg and 70 kg. And the ideal weight for an adult female would be between 80 % and 90 % of 70 kg, which means it should be between 56 kg and 63 kg. This thumb rule is a very simple rule because we generally do not gain height after the age of 20 years. So the ideal weight for a person can be calculated easily and shall stay constant for his or her life.

Waist Circumference

The American Heart Association has categorised the upper limit of the waist circumference for a healthy heart. The values are - for a female is 28 inches and a male is 32 inches. A two inch increase in the above values is permissible. However, increase beyond 2 inches is associated with increased heart risk. The increase in risk of death due to a cardiac event is 17% for every 2 inch increase. Hence we need to focus on inch loss also when we are exercising or working out.

Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR)

Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) as the name suggests is the ratio of a person’s waist to hip circumference. It is an important tool that helps you determine your overall health risk. People with more weight around their waist are at greater risk of life style diseases such as heart disease and diabetes than those with weight around their hips. It is a simple and useful measure of fat distribution. Use a measuring tape to check the waist and hip measurements – Hip at its widest part and Waist at the belly button or just above it. Then divide the waist circumference by the hip circumference to get your WHR value. The normal range for WHR is as below -

Male Female Health Risk – Based solely on WHR
0.95 or below 0.80 or below Low Risk
0.96 to 1.0 0.81 to 0.85 Moderate Risk
1.0 or above 0.85 or above High Risk

Target Heart Rate(THR)

is the heart rate we need to achieve during our exercise for getting maximum benefit from our exercise. To get the most out of the 30 – 45 min of our exercise we must carry out the same in the zone of our Target Heart Rate (THR). The THR is the zone where we achieve 60 5 to 80 % of our maximum heart rate. Medical professional use a very specific method to calculate the Target Heart Rate (Karvonen method). We shall however, look at another formula for calculating our THR. This is a very simple and easy to remember formula and is within 5 % of the above mentioned formula. The formula is as follows – 220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) and Target Heart Rate is 60 % to 85 % of the Maximum Heart Rate. THR = 60% to 85 % of MHR.
The THR zones are as below -

Age Maximum Heart Rate Target Heart Rate zone
20 200 120 – 170
25 195 117 – 166
30 190 114 – 162
35 185 111 – 157
40 180 108 – 153
45 175 105 – 149
50 170 102 – 145
55 165 099 – 140
60 160 096 – 136
65 155 093 – 132
70 150 090 – 123
75 145 087 – 119
You should ensure during the workout that your Target Heart Rate falls within your THR zone to maximise your cardiovascular fitness. It is not recommended to exercise above 85 % of your Maximum heart rate, because intensity at or above that level increases both Cardiovascular and Orthopaedic risk without providing any significant additional benefit from the exercise. A rule of thumb is that if you are able to sing while exercising you are not working hard enough and if you are not able to talk while exercising you are working out too hard. The THR is an estimate only. If you feel yourself becoming exhausted, then you are working out too hard and should ease off.
Talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise programme, especially if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle. In such cases always check with your health care provider before starting an exercise programme. Your health care provider can help you find a programme and THR zone that matches your physical condition, goals and needs. When beginning an exercise programme, you may need to gradually build up to a level that is within your THR zone, especially if you have not exercised regularly before. If the exercise feels too hard, slow down so that you reduce the risk of injury and enjoy the exercise more. If you are really serious about working out and becoming more cardiovascularly fit, you may consider purchasing a heart rate and pulse monitor for accurate readings during your workout sessions.

Conclusion

With the regular adoption of the above five parameters and giving due importance and time to maintain the four pillars of Optimal health one can really work their way into achieving OPTIMAL HEALTH. But please remember just knowing these things shall not get you in Optimal Health, the above things need to be put into action. The old adage ‘Knowledge is Power’ is correctly read as ‘Applied Knowledge is Power’. Hope the above has empowered you enough to take charge of your health. Good Luck!


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