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Life's liabilities

Eat with care and exercise well



RIGHT TRACK Regular exercise can keep away disease

This generation's tendency to work long hours, eat fast food and settle for homebound entertainment has created many people like Harish, 30, a marketing professional. For years, he constantly abused his body. If breakfast was pongal and vada, lunch was parathas, pulav and paneer curry. Bhajjis and masala vadais followed during tea break. Dinner was a repeat of lunch; only a syrupy sweet was extra.

A heavyweight at 95 kilos, Harish thought all was well till a casual visit to the doctor confirmed otherwise.

His cholesterol levels had skyrocketed and he stood on the threshold of diabetes. He sought help to bring his life back on track. Now, he exercises for an hour every day and has banned sugar, ghee and oil from his diet.

Doctors say the age profile of those with lifestyle diseases is decreasing by the day. Cardiologist J. S. Bhuvaneswaran says statistics show that coronary artery disease is shifting to younger people. "There is no specific reason, but diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and fast lifestyle all can lead to it. It can either be inherited or acquired."

Another disease silently invading the bodies of young people is diabetes. V. Rajendran, a diabetologist, says eating junk food and the inability to tackle peer pressure have resulted in many kids becoming his patients long before they have to. "Campuses have to be made free of fast foods," he insists. Are people willing to go in for a lifestyle makeover or do they have to be forced into it?

"There is a thin line between right education and threatening the patient. Proper counselling and motivation usually puts them on track," he says.

And for those citing work pressure as an excuse for skipping exercise, Rajendran says they need to develop the right attitude to work and adjust time accordingly.

Nutritionists say routine overeating is the key to obesity and related diseases. "Many parents overfeed children. Then, the kids learn to eat more on their own. This leads to obesity," says paediatrician P. Angeline Prema.

Keep children on a moderate diet and encourage them to exercise, she says. "Kids have little time to exercise now. Any free time is spent watching television. Parents must help children exert themselves physically," Dr. Prema adds.

It is possible that once children get used to the adrenalin rush that exercise and physical games give, they will most likely continue them for life.

People have to learn to eat right from an early age. It is difficult to switch to low-cal salads after a lifetime of high-cal binging. Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor says people are willing to try low-fat food but are waiting for someone to show them how.

"No one likes the oil floating atop gravies. Oil is just a medium. You can cook without it. The trick is to keep everything else (masala, salt) constant," he adds.

Dr. G. Lakshmipathi, a senior general physician, says lifestyle modification is the need of the day. "You can think that it is okay to eat ghee because your grandfather consumed a lot of it. But, he walked ten miles and milked the cows. How about you?" he asks. However, what gladdens him is that once people realise their body is not in great health, most work towards a change. "Except for a fatalistic few, the others hit the gym, go on diets, the works," he says.

That is the kind of response Dr. R. Ganesan would like to see in his patients. But, despite motivation and guidance, the response is not all that positive, he says. "For one, many patients are unwilling to accept that they are at fault for letting their body go," he adds.

SUBHA J. RAO

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