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Healthy Living The Way

Observe the 6 " Ways" to healthy living.

1. Sun

Fact: The sun can be your friend or foe

The sun is essential for the continuation of physical life. Sunlight triggers the formation of vitamin D3, and it is essential for bone growth. In addition, it controls the body's hormonal balance and immune system, and also assists in the rhythm of sleep and waking.

Unfortunately, too much of sunlight can have negative effects too. Repeated exposure to the sun damages the skin and causes premature skin ageing known as "photoaging". The skin registers every sunburn. This is evident in the stubborn sunspot that refuses to go away but which seems to get more prominent after more exposure to the sun. It has been proven that intensive sunbathing without adequate protection causes wrinkles, weakens the defences of the immune system, and in a worst case scenario, causes skin cancer. So a word of caution: if you are thinking of sun tanning to get that 'healthy look', think again. There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

2. Smoking

Fact: Smoking is harmful to the body

You may not realize it but there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke that comes from a single stick of cigarette. Some of the more common ones found in cigarettes are nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Nicotine is the addictive drug that keeps smokers hooked onto cigarettes. Tar, which is the black and sticky substance that is commonly used in the construction of roads, damages your lungs. Carbon monoxide is another poisonous gas that latches to your red blood cells and takes the place of some of the oxygen in your bloodstream. In addition, cigarette smoke contains the following:

  • ammonia, which is found in household cleaning agents
  • acetone, which is a component of nail polish remover
  • acetic acid (vinegar)
  • formaldehyde, which is used to preserve the dead
  • hydrogen cyanide
  • methanol, which is used for rocket fuel
  • metals (76 metals including arsenic, cadmium and nickel)
  • naphthalene, which is used to manufacture mothballs
  • phenol, which is a disinfectant
  • pesticides
  • radioactive compounds (polonium-210 and potassium-40)
  • toluene, which is an industrial solvent

The oxidants caused by smoking trigger an enzyme that depletes collagen, which is responsible for the elasticity of the skin throughout the body. This is generally why smokers age much faster than a non-smoker. Wrinkle formation in smokers can be as much as five times more advanced than in non-smokers of the same age. In addition to skin damage, smoking affects the sensory cells and clogs the arteries. It also accelerates the ageing of the brain, is responsible for sexual dysfunction and many forms of cancer (especially lung cancer).

3. Sleep

Fact: Sleep helps your body to repair itself

Having a good night's rest play an equally important role as eating a proper healthy diet and exercising. Notice how your skin looks fresher after a proper night's rest? Or how you are able to concentrate better at work? That's because the resting stage allows your body to repair itself and do the necessary work of cell growth and cell repair. Unfortunately, due to our hectic lifestyle, most of us sacrifice sleep. To allow the body to effectively repair itself, the average adult needs at least seven to eight hours of sleep, infants 16 hours of sleep, and teenagers about nine hours.

Sleep aids our bodies to fight infection. With proper rest, our immune system releases a sleep-inducing chemical while fighting a cold or an infection. Sleep helps the body conserve energy, which is needed to allow the immune system to help fight infections.

Notice how you tend to be drowsy and lose concentration if you do not get enough sleep. This is because sleep deprivation affects our nervous systems. Physical performance can also be affected. We tend to get exhausted more easily and become more susceptible to infections and the common flu. If sleep deprivation continues, serious side effects such as hallucinations and mood swings may develop. Repeated lack of proper sleep is also known to trigger both mental and physical disorders including depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

4. Sports

Fact: Exercising is the key to a fit and youthful you

Exercising not only helps you to keep fit but also helps to slow the ageing process. It is recommended that a regime of vigorous athletic exercises and endurance training be adopted to maintain good health. Cardio based exercises are the most beneficial for the heart. Regular exercising also helps you get a better sleep at night. However, exercise in moderation and eat well. Do not be too ambitious and over exercise as it can be detrimental to your overall health. Over exercising without enough rest weakens your immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness. It can also injure your muscles.

Choose exercises that avoid putting any undue strain on the joints. Recommended exercises include energetic walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling or gymnastics. For best results, each training session should last at least 30 minutes and should take place at least four times a week. Note: consult your doctor and go slow when you first start on an exercise regime.

5. Stress

Fact: Stress makes you age

Stress contributes to ageing and affects the muscles of the heart, making them more susceptible to heart attacks. Stress has been known to lead to psychotic disorders, most commonly manic depression, especially in women. Stress weakens the body's immune system, making people more prone to colds and other infections than a non-stressed person. Other common symptoms of stress include headaches, backaches, muscles pains, chest-pains, hot or cold flashes amongst other things.

Manage your stress! Give your body and mind sufficient opportunity to relax. Yoga, massages, relaxing baths and exercising are some ways you could look at to manage stress.

6. Sensible dieting

Fact: A proper diet is essential for a healthy body

Mention the word "diet" and most people think of dieting products that they can buy off the shelf or going on a meatless eating regime. Some people even mistake dieting to mean skipping meals. Nothing is worse that starving the body of the essential vitamins and proteins that it needs. Studies have shown that such dieting, often known as crash dieting, does more harm than good. People who go on crash dieting often end up in poor health and gain more weight once they resume their natural eating habits. This is because the body lowers the metabolic rate to deal with the reduced consumption of food.

In reality, good dieting is all about eating in moderation and maintaining a well-balanced meal that is low in fat, and high in protein and roughage. Consume a variety of vitamins (like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene) and minerals (like calcium, magnesium and selenium) as they are essential in maintaining the body's cells and the bones. In order to have a healthy, well-balanced diet, eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. Add low-fat milk products, wholemeal products, fish and poultry to your list of food consumption items. However, it is also recommended to take multi-vitamins as a supplement.

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