Most of us structure our days around comfort and rest. But what we fail to see is that these lifestyle choices pose a major threat to our health.
From choosing fast food over home-cooked meals, and a sedentary pace of life over an active one, we’ve created a host of new problems that are popularly referred to as “lifestyle disorders”. According to a WHO 2014 report, almost 26% Indians between the ages of 30-70 are likely to succumb to lifestyle disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with any of these ailments, don’t be disheartened. The good news is that they can be managed — and at times reversed – by making better choices about how to lead your life. Not sure how? Our experts offer some helpful suggestions.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Estimated to affect a fifth of Indian women, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance characterised by small cysts in the ovary. Left untreated, it can cause serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Best diet tips: While the cause of PCOS remains unclear, it indicates that the body is producing excess estrogen, which slows the body’s metabolic rate. To counter that, Senior Fitness Coach, Surabhi Srivastava, suggests including negative calorie foods such as cucumber, carrot and dates, along with metabolism boosting foods in your daily diet.
Best workout tips: Weight control plays an important role in controlling PCOS so follow an exercise regimen for weight loss. Senior Fitness Coach, Saravanan Hariram recommends a 30 to 45-minute training schedule, 5-7 days a week. This should include 4-5 days of cardio (walking, cycling, cross-trainer) and 2 days of strength training (body weight training, lifting weights).
Yoga can also help women with PCOS. Senior Yoga Coach, Pragya Bhatt, suggests starting with two sets of 10 Surya Namaskars as well as 10 minutes of Pranayam and Anulom-Vilom (alternate nostril breathing exercises). Also try relaxing poses that de-stress the endocrine glands. The Butterfly (Titli) asana is good option.
Butterfly (Titli) Asana
- Seated in a lotus position, bend your knees. Let the soles of your feet touch each other.
- Take a long deep breath, and while exhaling, push your knees down towards the ground with your hands.
- Bring them back up while inhaling. Repeat this flapping motion for two minutes.
Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, is responsible for maintaining the body’s blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use it effectively. This causes body’s blood sugar levels to rise and can lead to irreparable damage.
Best diet tips: Since diabetes is all about regulating the body’s blood sugar levels, following a balanced diet is important. Stick to foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar.
Best workout tips: According to Surabhi, a 30-minute brisk walk two times a day is apt! If you want to push your limits, Saravanan suggests moderate intensity cardio and strength training for 30 minutes to one hour, 5 days a week. Yoga poses that involve twisting and reclining, such as Marichyasana or Dhanur asana are ideal to set the pancreas in motion, recommends Pragya.
While exercising, remember to keep some candy or glucose around, for precautionary measures. Eat a snack that’s rich in glucose—any fruit is a good option. (Saravanan says that while chiku is generally not advised for diabetic patients, it’s okay to eat it before a workout session.) It’s also important to monitor your insulin levels both before and after each workout session.
While the body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to function, excessively high levels of this fatty substance in your blood increases the risks of health complications.
Best diet tips: A low-fat diet including fiber rich foods like wholegrain rice, fruits and vegetables can help lower cholesterol. Unsaturated fats – found in salmon, nuts and olive oil – contain “good cholesterol” that the body needs.
Best workout tips: 45-60 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, is recommended for cholesterol patients. Surabhi advises a minimum of 10,000 steps daily along with half-an-hour of cardio and weight training exercises at the gym. Meditation is also a good option, she says. Alternatively, for the body to generate enough heat to metabolise toxins, Pragya suggests up to 50 Surya Namaskars a day.
The heart is a pumping organ, and the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels is referred to as blood pressure (BP). Due to lack of activity and stress, there are times when too much or too little blood reaches the heart, causing it to pump harder – or slower – than required.
Best diet tips: If you suffer from high BP, stick to a low sodium diet. People with low BP should include more salt in their diet.
Best workout tips: Exercise and meditation is the best way to bring your heart rate up to a moderate level and regulate your BP. Saravanan recommends low to moderate intensity cardio and strength training workouts, with 45 -60 minutes sessions, five days a week. When it comes to strength training, he suggests that while keeping the intensity limited to low or moderate, increase the number of reps to 10-15. A gradual warm up and cool down lasting at least 10 minutes each is necessary.
For BP patients keen on yoga, Pragya advises Surya Namaskar, but cautions against doing more than 3-4 sets a day. Pranayam is the best breathing technique; refrain from Kapalbhati (rapid inhalation and exhalation) entirely. You can also try forward bending poses such as Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose) and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose).
Janu Sirsasana Asana
- Sit with your legs outstretched in front of you.
- Inhale while bending your right knee and place your right foot against the left inner thigh. Exhale while letting the right knee rest on (or towards) the floor.
- Flex your left foot, and while exhaling bend forward from the hips and try and take hold of your foot or ankle. If you can’t reach that far, hold where you can. Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 seconds; inhale while straightening up.
Remember not to make any rapid changes in positions while exercising. For example, if you want to go from lying down to sitting up, or from seated to standing, do it slowly to avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure.
This condition, characterised by bulging, twisting veins, is caused when excessive pressure cuts off circulation to the lower body, causing blood to pool in the veins. People who are overweight or those who remain seated for too long may find themselves suffering from this problem.
Best diet tips: A diet rich in fiber, Vitamin C and a flavonoid compound called Rutin is excellent for this condition. Rutin can be found in rajgira (Amaranth), unpeeled apples and figs.
Best workout tips: Surabhi says ankle and toe movement, done while you are seated through the day, is the best way to prevent varicose veins. Viparita Karani (Upside-Down) asana is also highly recommended. For yoga beginners, Pragya suggests practicing the pose in an Iyengar yoga class, with use of props.
Viparita Karani Asana
- Sit facing an open wall.
- While exhaling, gently lie on your back and pivot yourself so that the back of your legs is pressed against the wall and the bottom of your feet are facing up.
- Your body should be at an approximate 90-degree angle. (If you’re uncomfortable, slide a prop underneath your hips.)
- Let your hands rest either on your stomach or by your side, palms facing upwards. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose for 5-15 minutes.
- To disengage from this position, push your feet into the wall and lift your hips slightly. Gently roll to one side, stay there for a few seconds before returning to a sitting position.
While all these exercise and diet tips can help you better manage any lifestyle disorder, be sure to consult your doctor before trying them and also for any medication your condition may require.
Making changes to your lifestyle is the best way to control or overcome any of these disorders. Our experts can customise diet and fitness advice for your condition. Click here to know more