By Sudesh Shet
Lifestyle, as the name suggests, is a way of living used by people, groups and nations which are in specific geographical, economic, political, cultural and religious texts. It refers to the characteristics of inhabitants of a region in a special time and place. It includes day to day behaviours and functions of working/non-working individuals, activities, fun and diet.
In recent years, lifestyle as a vital factor of healthy living has caught the eye of many researchers and universities. According to WHO, 60% health related issues and quality of food are correlated to lifestyle. Millions of people follow an unhealthy lifestyle, most of the time due to unintentional circumstances occurring at the workplace or their respective lives. Hence, they encounter illness, disorders and when overlooked to a great extent, even death. Problems like metabolic dysfunction, joint and skeletal issues, cardio-vascular disorders, hypertension, obesity, depression and so on, can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. The relationship of lifestyle and health go hand in hand; hence both carry the same significance to lead a better living.
Today, vast changes have occurred in the lives of many people around the globe which is a matter of serious concern. Malnutrition, unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, medicinal and narcotic drug abuse, mental and physical stress, are the presentations of unhealthy lifestyles that are dominating the world right now. Besides, people of all age groups are faced with new challenges on a day-to-day basis. For instance, emerging new technologies within IT such as the internet and virtual networks, lead our world to a dangerous point that threatens the physical and mental health of individuals. The challenge is the overuse or rather misuse of the technology.
Therefore, according to the existing studies, it can be said that: lifestyle has a significant influence on physical and mental health of a person. There are different forms of such influences. Consanguinity in some ethnicities is a dominant form of lifestyle that leads to genetic disorders. Reformation of this unhealthy lifestyle is a preventing factor for decreasing the rate of genetic diseases. In some countries, the overuse of drugs is a major unhealthy lifestyle. Iran is one of the 20 countries using the most medications. They prefer medication to other forms of medical intervention. Furthermore, in 15–40% cases they use medications without appropriate prescription or consultation. Pain relievers, eye drops and antibiotics have the most usage in Iran. While self-medications such as antibiotics have a negative effect on the immune system, if an individual would be affected by infection, antibiotics will not be effective in treatment. Overall, 10 percent of those who are self-medicated will experience severe complications such as drug resistance. Sometimes drug allergy is so severe that it can cause death.
Characteristics of Heart Disease
Heart disease results from the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood through a process known as atherosclerosis. Fatty deposits (or plaque) gradually build up on the inside of the artery walls, narrowing the space of blood flow to the heart. Atherosclerosis can start developing at a young age itself, so by the time one’s age progresses, it advances accordingly.
Plaque build-up can be considered as stable or unstable. If there is too much build-up of stable plaque, it narrows the arteries, causing pain and discomfort due to not enough blood reaching the heart – this is called angina and it needs to be treated.
Unstable plaque is inflamed and has a thin cap which is prone to developing a crack, allowing the blood to come in contact with the fatty contents of the plaque. The blood will clot to try to seal the gap but in doing so, the blood clot blocks the artery. This prevents the flow of blood to the heart, cuts off its oxygen supply and damages or kills the heart cells. This condition when it occurs is commonly called a heart attack.
Blood Pressure and Salt (Sodium)
A diet high in salt is linked to hypertension (high blood pressure), which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Most of us consume more than 10 times the amount of salt we need to meet our sodium requirements (salt contains sodium and chloride).
Most of the sodium in our diet is not from added salt at the table, but from packaged and processed foods. Even sweet foods and those that don’t taste ‘salty’ can have much more sodium than you’d expect.
How to reduce your risk of heart disease with healthy eating?
- Increase the amount and variety of plant-based foods – eat more vegetables, fruits and wholegrain cereals.
- Limit fried fast food and processed foods.
- Reduce your salt intake – avoid packaged foodstuffs, limit foods rich in preservatives. Reduce the usage of salt and substitute it with herbs and mild spices for flavour.
- If you drink alcohol, restrict to no more than 2 standard drinks on any given day. A high alcohol intake increases blood pressure and can increase triglycerides in the blood.
- Trim all visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.
- If you have elevated cholesterol levels, switch to low-fat or non-fat dairy products and have no more than 7 eggs per week.
Variables of lifestyle that influence health are categorized by the following:
● Diet and Body Mass Index (BMI): Diet is the greatest factor in lifestyle and has a direct and positive relation with health. Poor diet and its consequences like obesity is a common health problem in urban society. Unhealthy lifestyle can be measured by BMI. Urban lifestyle leads to the nutrition problems like consuming fast food and items prepared using an enhancer like MSG (monosodium glutamate or commonly known as China salt)
● Exercise: For tackling general health issues, physical exercise is included for robust living. A steady, continuous physical regime along with a healthy diet can have amazing results on one’s body and mind. Some studies have proven the existence of a correlation between one’s active lifestyle and individual happiness quotient.
● Sleep: One of the basics of a healthy lifestyle is sleep. Disorders due to lack of sleep have several social, psychological and economical consequences. One of the best solutions to reducing one’s health related problems and risks is getting an ample amount of sleep.
● Sexual activity: Just like our every other bodily need, Sex plays an important role in our physical and mental fitness. While it does play a vital role, sexual activity is also influenced highly by usual individual habits. Any sort of substance or liquor addiction, improper diet, lack of sleep ends up diminishing one’s libido.
● Substance abuse: Addiction has been considered as a major threat to human life since decades now. Smoking and consumption of other substances may result in various life-threatening problems; emphysema, asthma, cancer, brain hemorrhage, tumor development. According to the recent studies in Iran, 43% of females and 64% of males experience the use of hubble-bubble. A longitudinal study shows that 30% of people between 18–65 years old smoke cigarettes permanently.
● Medication abuse: It is a common form of using medication and it is considered as a threat to general physical health. Unethical behaviour in using medication is self-treatment, sharing medication, using medications without prescription, prescribing too many drugs, prescribing the large number of each drug, unnecessary dosage, bad handwriting in prescription, disregard to the contradictory medication, harmful side effects, improper or misguided explanation of a particular drug and it’s consumption.
● Application of modern technologies: Advanced technology facilitates the life of humans. Misuse of technology may result in unpleasant consequences. For example, use of computers and other devices beyond sleep hours, may affect and disturb the body clock and its sleep cycle. Addiction to using a mobile phone is related to depression causing symptoms.
● Recreation: Leisure pass time is a sub factor of lifestyle. Neglecting leisure can bring negative consequences on one’s mental health. With disorganized planning and mismanagement of time, people devoid their lives from the basic happiness and satisfaction derived from leisure activity.
How Can You Detect Heart Problems At Earlier Stages?
1. Consult your cardiologist
2. Get an Echocardiography done every 3 months
3. Do a TMT test after every 3 months
(This article has been authored by Sudesh Shet, a Consultant Cardiovascular Technologist currently interning at Asilo District Hospital, Mapusa)