Choose the way you live

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You can choose a lifestyle that will keep you healthy, happy, and free from most illnesses –and keep dementia at bay. Start setting up an active ageing agenda by the age of fifty.

This post tells you what this involves.

As a start, remember that retirement is not a period of steady decline leading to the inevitable end but a period when you can set fresh goals and fulfil aspirations. Ageing active means that you lead a purposeful and meaningful life doing the things you want to do and like to do, at the time of your choice. Eating healthy, keeping yourself physically fit, keeping mentally active and learning new skills keeps you young at heart with a spirit of challenge and adventure. Spiritual and social engagement and community welfare activities bring meaning and purpose to life.

An active ageing agenda needs to allow time for all of these aspects of living. Go for it, retirement is the gift of time.

You will benefit from a structured approach to laying down the activities of your life with clear milestones of achievement. A fascinating aspect of this journey is that there is a limitless supply of information on the internet on each of the areas of interest and a variety of tools to access this treasure chest of information. It goes without saying that it is essential to be digitally savvy. These continuous learning opportunities keep your mind active and progressively refreshes the way you engagement with the environment.

Each of us adopts an active ageing agenda based on our talents, circumstances and the passions that drive our life. In my book Celebrating Active Ageing, I have presented the lives of many people to illustrate this point. A common feature of all these life stories, is the high degree of commitment and passion each of them have displayed in their lives, and the high standards they set for themselves. I will share about each of these individuals in the posts to follow.

Being purposeful and deliberate about the choices you make in life calls for a structured approach or a least a semi- structured approach to planning your life. My friend Swapan Ray and I have been rather structured in our approach. The next post will cover how each of us has chosen the way we wish to live and the goals and targets we set.

I will be happy to receive your feedback on what you considered important as you look ahead at the journey of your life. Do write back to me in your comments.
#active ageing #healthy lifestyle #healing #well being #wellness

Getting the better of dementia

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You can delay the onset of dementia or even ward it off. Warding off dementia is a compelling reason to establish an active ageing agenda.

Knowing what is cognitive reserve is a good start point to gaining an understanding of what we need to do and why it is so important.

Here’s what made a big impact on me.

Research studies showed that many people live without any evidence of mental degradation yet after death their brain shows advanced incidences of dementia.
This led to the astonishing understanding that for such people their brain has found alternate ways of cognitive functioning to overcome declining capabilities. Researchers called this process building cognitive reserve. While cognitive functioning i.e. the ability to perform the various mental activities associated with learning and problem solving such as memory, learning new things, speech, the ability to read and understand, etc. diminishes with age, the researchers of Harvard Medical School said that building a cognitive reserve can help cope with this decline.

Our ability to cope with our brain’s declining capabilities depends on our cognitive reserve. We can continue to enhance our cognitive reserve and buffer memory loss and thinking by challenging your brain to learn new skills and adopting the right lifestyle.

Cognitive reserve can be built with a comprehensive programme that includes the right type and quantity of physical activity, a proper diet, adequate sleep, social and mental activity, and new learning experiences.
This is collaborated by the WHO fact sheet which says, “Studies show that people can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, Additional risk factors include depression, low educational attainment, social isolation, and cognitive inactivity.”

Warding off dementia is a compelling reason to establish an active ageing agenda, a must if you wish to lead an active and fulfilling life till your last days.
#dementia #healing #ageing #active ageing #wellness #well being #retirement #healthy lifestyle

Worrying about dementia

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I am apprehensive about dementia just as many of my friends. My brother-in-law felt he was trapped at home and made several attempts to get away. Eight years or so ago, he left home never to be found again and is presumed dead.Many others I have met,who are suffering from dementia are lost,helpless and extremely lonely.

As per the WHO there are 50 million people affected by dementia and 10 million are added each year. This is what WHO says about the early onset of dementia, “Although age is the strongest known risk factor for dementia, it is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. Further, dementia does not exclusively affect older people – young onset dementia (defined as the onset of symptoms before the age of 65 years) accounts for up to 9% of cases.

Studies by the Harvard Medical School say that with the right lifestyle changes and the right set of actions we can delay or even ward off the onset of dementia.

It will be nice to hear the views and thoughts of readers of this blog before reading about minimising the impact of this condition.Do share your thoughts. It would be wonderful to hear from you.
#dementia #ageing #healing #wellness #well being #retirement

Getting to know dementia

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Progressive loss of memory and other cognitive functions that disrupt daily life is referred to as dementia. Here is a quick look at how this condition progresses.

The initial stages of the disease are hard to detect and result in mild memory loss, the inability to recall events etc. but do not disrupt daily life. This is mild cognitive impairment and may also be caused by other factors such as vitamin B12 deficiency or sleep disorders. By the middle stages the memory loss becomes more apparent. Neglecting personal hygiene, getting confused by the day or place, forgetting long-known things such as home address or telephone number and moodiness are symptoms. In the final stages memory has declined and meaningful communication is not possible. People in this stage need help for daily activity such as dressing, bathing, etc.

As we go through life here’s what we experience.

The brains capabilities vary as we age. In the twenties our brain development reaches maturity. We can solve problems, reason, learn, process, and remember new information such as people’s names and faces easily. In the thirties our learning, processing and thinking speed start to decline but our working memory is at its peak. In the fifties we may experience mild forgetfulness such as recalling names and words that once came easily. In the seventies we may have more trouble with the working memory. In the eighties we are likely to experience both short term and long term memory loss. We will find it harder to find words associated with people and everyday objects.

The brain gives us the ability to think, understand, learn and remember. It has over a 100 billion cells or neurons each of which is interconnected to the others in a complex web that forms a flexible and continuously changing network. With each new experience the network of neurons keeps changing. Connections that are not used become weaker with time and are cleared. This continuous reorganisation is referred to as plasticity by scientists. Plasticity plays an important role in the brains ability to learn and adapt. Researchers believe that plasticity changes as we age but it can be enhanced by activities that challenge the brain.

Mentally challenging activity and learning new things is a way to enhance cognitive reserve which diminishes the risk of developing dementia. We should keep trying experiences beyond our comfort zone such as learning a new language or a musical instrument or other new skills. If you play sudoku or crosswords, keep increasing the level of difficulty. Also engage in different mental activity not just one. Cultural activities such as plays, concerts visits to the museums are enriching and stimulating. Travel also brings different experiences and mental stimulation.
In the next post I will cover in more detail the actions we can take to delay the onset of dementia.
Reference: Harvard Medical School’s report – A Guide to Cognitive Fitness
#dementia #active ageing #wellness #healing #well being #healthy lifestyle #retirement

The catalyst for challenge and adventure

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A setback in health is often a catalyst for change. I considered lifestyle changes when I failed a treadmill test at 45 and had to take an angiogram to understand the damage to my heart. I was anxious as I awaited the procedure in a hospital in Chennai. It was relieved when I heard the doctor say, as I was drowsy under the influence of a mild anesthesia, that there was nothing much to worry about. It was a mild disorder and wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I realised the need to take greater care of my health.

Dr. Dean Ornish’s book, ‘Programme for reversing heart disease’ influenced me on my journey towards good health. I learned that good health requires a holistic approach with physical activity, proper nutrition and eating habits and managing stress. Also, the influence of family support, social engagement and spiritual pursuits have on our sense of wellbeing and good health. We address the root cause of diseases when we work on all these aspects of life.

A hectic corporate life led to sporadic efforts to lead a healthy life. It was only when I turned 60, that I set up a robust agenda for active ageing in my life. When I reached 64, the year of my retirement, I looked forward to this new phase of life with enthusiasm. By70, I had taken part in several ultra-cycling events, went on treks into the mountains, written and published books, reestablished a firm commitment to a Buddhist spiritual organisation and maintained a steady fitness regime that gave me a sense of wellbeing.

In January 2019, I celebrated my 70th birthday by cycling from Chennai to New Delhi, a distance of about 3000 kilometres to draw attention to the critical needs of old age care. I partnered with HelpAge India for this challenging endeavour. The cyclothon, thanks to HelpAge India, was memorable and satisfying.
The spirit of challenge and adventure in me continued after the cyclothon and encouraged by Mr. Mathew Cherian, the CEO of HelpAge India, I threw myself into writing a book on celebrating active ageing. Through this book, I wish to inculcate, or strengthen, in the reader, a culture of fitness and healthy living together that will enable a joyful and productive life way past retirement into the seventies and eighties.
#active ageing #well being #wellness #retirement #ageing #healthy lifestyle

Eating for a long and healthy life

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Dr. V Mohan says, “If you follow a balanced and nutritious diet by reducing carbs, eating small quantities of healthy fats, plenty of green leafy vegetables and fruits and sufficient quantity of proteins from vegetable sources, along with keeping yourself physically fit and taking stress reducing measures, you will lead a long and healthy life.”
Dr. Mohan is an internationally acclaimed diabetologist. He is the Chairman and Chief of Diabetology at Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Centre, which is a WHO Collaborating Centre for Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention and Control and an IDF Centre of Education. The Specialty Centre has over 4,70,000 registered patients.
Here are his views on the right diet to follow.
Excessive carbohydrates and not fats are the major culprit in causing chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, coronary disease and diabetes. Excess carbs result in high glucose levels after every meal even for those without diabetes. Eventually, the body will be unable to produce sufficient insulin leading to diabetes. Even when one is not diabetic it leads to insulin resistance, which is the cause of obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver, hypertension and even diabetes.
Carbohydrates come mainly from the rice, chapattis, iddlis and dosas that we eat. Cutting this down will do us good. For instance, if we eat 4 iddlis for breakfast we can cut it down to 2. When we reduce carbs, we need to increase proteins, preferably from vegetable sources such as Bengal gram, green gram, black gram, rajma, soya, milk, eggs, fish and chicken. Proteins are necessary to keep our muscles healthy. At breakfast, we can eat 2 eggs either omelets or boiled eggs. This will keep us from getting hungry quickly, as proteins increase our satiety unlike carbohydrates which are easily digested and make us hungry again within 3–4 hours.
Eat plenty of vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables, and if you are not diabetic lots of fresh fruits. This will give you all the vitamins, minerals, iron and other nutrients that your body needs. Vegetables provide fibre, which is good for smooth bowel movement, and sufficient vitamin B12, which has multiple health benefits.
Small quantities of fats are a necessary part of your diet to make it palatable and tasty. Mono-unsaturated fats such as nuts and seeds and healthy oils such as ground nut oil, gingerly oil and mustard oil can be taken in small quantities. You can also take small quantities of saturated fats such as ghee and butter. Trans fats that are found in refined and processed foods are to be avoided as far as possible.
#nutrition #healing #healthy eating #well being #wellness

Sound advice from a trusted source

Dr. Ornish
In his book, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Programme for Reversing Heart Disease, Dr. Ornish said, “Instead of asking you to follow a long list of ‘do’s and do not’s’ you have a spectrum of choices based on your specific needs. If you have coronary heart disease, then your intake of fat and cholesterol needs to be very low to increase the likely hood that reversal will occur. If you don’t have a heart problem, then you may eat somewhat more fat and cholesterol.” He recommends two types of diets in his programme, the Reversal Diet for those who have coronary heart disease and the Preventive Diet for those who want to avoid the risk of heart disease.
The Reversal Diet is very low on fat, less than 10% of total calorie intake, and has almost no cholesterol. It excludes all oils and all animal products except low fat milk and yogurt. He recommends that there is no need to restrict calorie intake but to be careful of the type of food and to select only from vegetable sources. In the Preventive Diet, Dr. Ornish recommends cutting back on meats, ice-cream, butter, eggs, cheese and oils. If your cholesterol level is below 150 and you are not taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, then whatever you are eating is probably sufficient to prevent heart disease. If your cholesterol level is greater than 150, he recommends eliminating red meats completely, eating more fish, avoiding fried foods, having some vegetarian meals each week and using as little oil as possible when cooking. He said, “Some people will find moderate dietary changes are sufficient to bring their cholesterol levels down around 150. Others will require more comprehensive changes to accomplish this.”
Dr. Dean Ornish’s book, ‘Programme for reversing heart disease’ greatly influenced me on my journey towards good health. Dean Ornish, is a revolutionary thought leader in healthcare and medicine, proving through 35 years of research that comprehensive lifestyle changes can improve chronic heart conditions and transform lives. I learned that good health requires a holistic approach with physical activity, proper nutrition and eating habits and managing stress. Also, the influence of family support, social engagement and spiritual pursuits have on our sense of wellbeing and good health. We address the root cause of diseases when we work on all these aspects of life.
#nutrition #wellness #well being #active ageing #healthy lifestyle #healing #health care

You are what you eat

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Dietary habits have seen vociferous debates between advocates for and against diet plans. The Atkins Diet that held sway in the US In the early 70s was revolutionary at that time. It did not restrict the overall calorie intake and allowed eating meats, sea food and dairy products but severely restricted eating carbohydrates.
In 2004, almost half the US population, in a desperate bid to reduce weight and control obesity, was either on a low-carb diet or was planning to start. It generated its share of controversy, for and against a low-carb diet, that led to a great deal of research to establish the benefits of these diets. In contrast to the low-carb diet plans, studies such as the China Study placed strict restrictions on animal protein foods and advocated plant based protein foods and placed no restrictions on carbohydrates other than refined of simple carbohydrates. This is the view most nutritionists hold today.
Thomas Colin Campbell, an American biochemist who specializes in the effect of nutrition on long-term health, is known for his advocacy of a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet. He is the author of over 300 research papers and three books, The China Study co-authored with his son, is one of America’s best-selling books about nutrition. Campbell was a lead scientists of the China–Cornell–Oxford Project on diet and disease, set up in 1983 by Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine to explore the relationship between nutrition and cancer, heart, and metabolic diseases. The study was described by The New York Times as “the Grand Prix of epidemiology”.
The findings from the China Study indicates that the lower the percentage of animal-based foods that are consumed, the greater the health benefits. Thomas Campbell said, “Great food and good health is simple. The biology of the relationship of food and health is exceptionally complex but the message is simple. Eat a whole food, plant based diet while minimizing the consumption of refined foods, added salt and added fats.” (The China Study)
You can read more on these diet plans in my book, Celebrating Active Ageing. Make your diet and food an integral part of your lifestyle. There is abundant literature on this fascinating subject. Your exploration into this world will keep you engrossed and enable you to work out the most suitable diet for your unique needs. You are what you eat !!
#nutrition #healing #well being #wellness #active ageing #healthy life style

The curative power of food

IMG-20191123-WA0023The curative power of food can be dramatic.
Pushpa, a type-2 diabetic developed breathlessness after short walks and was diagnosed with a lung disease that causes inflammation leading to reduced oxygen intake and poor exhaling of carbon dioxide. She was placed on respiratory support to increase oxygen levels in her blood stream to safe levels and was prescribed heavy doses of steroids. The steroids played havoc with her sugar levels and she was given increasing doses of oral medication and insulin. Her sugar levels continued to be erratic in spite of 60 units of insulin every day along with oral medication.

In consultation with a nutritionist and her physician she reduced her over all calorie intake and adopted a low carbohydrate balanced diet. She introduced eating dhania and methi seeds, lots of vegetables and fruits, vegetable smoothies (bottle gourd, cucumber or white ash gourd), mint leaves, cinnamon, ginger, pepper and turmeric all in the right measure and at the right time. She rotated between millets, rice and bajra rotis at lunch and dinner and used cold pressed coconut oil for all cooking.

On this diet over a period of a year, her insulin fasting and blood sugar levels showed steady improvement and in consultation with her doctor, Pushpa gradually reduced her diabetes medication to just 10 units of insulin once a day and a tablet of sitagliptin and metformin every morning and evening. Her weight dropped from 93 kg to 84 kg.
Pushpa said, “Since starting the new diet I am much more healthy and energetic. My breathlessness has reduced and I can walk for half an hour comfortably. The swelling in my legs has also reduced a lot. Overall, I feel much better and the sense of helplessness has gone.”

You can read Pushpa’s experience and other diet and health snippets in my book Celebrating Active Ageing.
I share this with a word of caution that all medication and diet changes are to be adopted strictly on the advise of your doctor and nutritionist.

#nutrition #well being #wellness #active ageing #healthy lifestyle #healing

Eating right-eating healthy

Ishi Khosla offers practical advice on how to eat right and eat healthy in her latest book, “Eating at work.” She believes that diets should not be punitive and a test of will power. Diet in her dictionary is a way of life that is completely integrated with your lifestyle and the one you can follow for the rest of your life.
Ishi is actively involved in clinical practice at the Centre for Dietary Counselling in Delhi and has spearheaded the first of its kind health food company ‘Whole Foods India’. She has written many books including ‘The diet doctor’ and ‘Is wheat killing you’.

Here are a few snippets from ‘Eating at Work’.

• “An ideal diet plan does not exist. Each one has to identify the perfect, ultimate and ideal diet plan which can withstand their unique challenges. It is about gaining knowledge about what to eat, how to eat, how much to eat and when to eat. Then use this information to plan meals and snacks for the day to reach your goals for fitness.”

• “One can never over feed a baby if the baby does not want to eat. This exemplifies the fact that we are programmed to control our eating but unfortunately, these mechanisms have been destroyed, over years of faulty eating, modifications in the food (refining, processing, and genetically modifying) and agricultural practices.”

• “To redefine and clean up our food, eat simpler, take out the junk, cut back on sugars and add plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. This will help restore our normal food regulating systems and support our dietary regimes.” She advocates that eating right will result in slowly changing our food preferences and how hungry we feel. She says that smart eating lowers caloric intake by as much as 50% yet increases energy levels.

Ishi is concerned about the level of toxicity in our environment; the toxic chemical load because of pesticides, herbicides, agricultural practices, genetic modifications of food, food additives and preservatives. She attributes increasing sensitivity to certain foods notably wheat and dairy products, to the dramatic increase in pesticides and other chemicals. The residual pesticides in the food we eat in India is forty times what it is in other developed countries.

I have devoted an entire chapter on nutrition for health and long life, an essential ingredient for active ageing, in my book, Celebrating Active Ageing where you can read the views of Ishi Khosla and several others.
#nutrition #healthy eating #active ageing #well being #wellness