The human body works in mysterious ways. Even after a vast number of scientific discoveries, we don’t understand everything about it (nor will we ever). Nonetheless, centuries of research have helped us learn many things that preserve and protect our bodies and lives. Staying healthy is not an easy affair. From what you put into your body to what you surround it with, everything has an impact. Given the difficulty in maintaining a natural way of life, and since pollution and pesticides are part of our everyday existences, what we eat and how we remain healthy is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Every professional has a different opinion on how to stay healthy. Some recommend vigorous exercise, and others suggest eating organic foods. The wise among us know that good health is a combination of all these things and more, including genetics. From the very beginning, preventive measures can and should be taken in order for us to live the healthiest and longest lives possible.
..... Saloni & Rahul
Women must ensure that their bodies are in top shape before they conceive. An expectant mother needs to take care of herself and her unborn child to the best of her abilities; improper care can result in health problems for the child, or worse. Many things affect the foetus, so being healthy most definitely begins before conception.
Eating right comes first. Consume enough folic acid to keep the baby healthy; fruits and veggies are your best bets as they’re low on fat and high in nutrients. Foods rich in iron and calcium – spinach, egg yolks, soybean, and broccoli – should also be included. Drink plenty of water, avoid mercury-rich foods and uncooked protein (no sushi!), and take a multivitamin supplement to boost your health.
Regular check-ups are essential to make sure your darling baby is developing well. If there are complications, proper action can be taken sooner. Expectant mothers should also get flu and other recommended vaccinations so that their unborn child remains safe if they fall sick.
Get a professional opinion on how much exercise your body and baby can handle, but keep yourselves active. You don’t have to workout vigourously every day, but get some exercise. There are many fitness regimens designed for pregnant mothers, prenatal yoga and Lamaze being the most popular.
Newborns need the utmost care and attention. Newborn infants have very fragile immune systems and are more susceptible to many common illnesses, like the cold and flu, than the rest of us.
With food, there isn’t much variety for a newborn, but what the mother eats does go into the baby’s system through breast milk. Breastfeeding mothers should eat their fill so that the infant gets enough nourishment. Remember, you still need to keep up your health for the sake of your baby, so make sure your meals cover the elements of a balanced diet. Be careful when you dine out so as to not contaminate your breast milk with harmful additives, preservatives and chemicals.
Some common illnesses and conditions you may face with your newborn include colic, vomiting, colds and jaundice. Infants should be vaccinated on time to protect them in the long run; the most important ones are BCG (for tuberculosis), OPV (for polio) and Hepatitis B.
As your baby develops, he will need shots to protect him from whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and meningitis. Between six months and two years, he will need to be vaccinated for influenza, measles, chicken pox, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), Hepatitis A and typhoid.
Although it might sound strange, infant exercise can help developmental and motor skills. Stretching the child’s arms and legs, encouraging him to move his limbs as much as possible, is beneficial. Wind down with (extremely) gentle massages with baby oil.
Because toddlers move around a lot and they don’t yet know what not to do/touch/eat/lick, it’s impossible to watch them all the time. As a result, their well-being is often an issue. The best foods for toddler immune systems are fruits and vegetables – though getting her to eat these is no simple task. This brings us to another important aspect of toddler health – eating enough. Toddlers are usually picky, but it’s very important for the child to eat her fill. Foods rich in vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc should be high on the list – avocados, blueberries, oatmeal, spinach (good luck with this!) and yoghurt are all great choices.
Keeping the young ‘uns active is an essential part of childcare. It’s not only healthy for the body, but for the mind as well. Creative tasks like drawing and colouring are great ways to stimulate your child’s mind. Physical tasks like swimming and playing catch will improve her physical health and motor skills.
It’s vital to strengthen your child’s immune system up from an early age. Feed her foods rich in vitamin C and carotenoid, like carrots, beans, oranges and fish. Ensure that she gets 12 hours of sound sleep, and let her get plenty of exercise. A large part of the blame for poor immunity can be attributed to a lack of activity. The more active and strong your body is, the better it can and will fight illness.
Preteens and Teenagers
This is when the body undergoes some big changes. The vaccines you took as a child aren’t as strong at keeping illness at bay, so be sure to get all the boosters you need. Tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough will need to be administered again.
Eating right is always important, but teens especially need lots of energy. Teenage boys, in particular, need to eat a considerable amount; they tend to be very active and burn calories quickly. Give them their fill of foods rich in calcium and iron, like mangoes, grapes, yoghurt, nuts, salmon, lean meats and green vegetables.
And with busy social and school lives, meal timings can get a bit erratic. Eating on time and at regular intervals helps the body maintain its internal clock and makes for better results in the long run. Getting a good night’s sleep is another integral part of preteen and teenage health.
A healthy body is not only affected by food intake and external activity, but by state of mind. A positive environment will help, especially at this age, with both mental and physical development. As they say, a happy mind is a healthy mind. Maintain an active physical life at this age to boost immunity and metabolism, setting the body up for the rigours of adulthood.
For young adults, proper eating habits are a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. Making the right choices is harder than you’d expect. We’d generally rather eat what tastes good instead of what makes us feel good. The main thing is to avoid unhealthy junk food high in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, chemicals, preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
Plenty of fruits and vegetables – two and five servings per day, respectively – is what you need. Make sure you consume lean protein like skinless chicken breast or fish. At least three servings of dairy are recommended for bone growth and strength, too. Up the intake of lean protein and skimmed dairy if your exercise regimen features weight training. As for starches, unrefined breakfast cereals, whole wheat bread and crackers, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta can provide much-needed energy.
Get your body moving for at least 60 minutes per day. During exercise, keep your heart rate high (between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate), and remember to stretch before and after. Physical activity is a must, so make use of whatever is around to keep you active. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Ride a bike or walk whenever you can avoid taking the car. Walking and playing with your dog, if you have one, is also a good (and fun) way to stay fit.
Don’t waste time, either. At lunch, go for a walk instead of talking with your colleagues. Have a pickup game of football, basketball or cricket. In the evening, go dancing with your friends (keep the alcohol consumption to a minimum), or dance around the kitchen lifting heavy pots to make a healthy dinner. Apart from time spent at school or work, limit how long you stare at a screen, whether it’s a television, phone or computer.
Many people in their late 30s and 40s also notice a decline in endurance and changes in their digestive systems. Wounds and injuries take longer to heal, and body compositions change due to fat deposits around the torso. To maintain your health and wellness during this time, keep a check on your overall body weight, consume nutrient-dense foods, drink alcohol moderately (or better yet, skip it), don’t smoke, and engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day.
A regular exercise routine through middle age can delay biological aging by up to 12 years, according to a review reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. As for energy requirements, women aged 31 to 50 need 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day; men need 2,200 to 3,000. This varies, of course, as per activity levels. Rely on healthy foods to meet these nutritional requirements.
The boosters recommended for adults are the seasonal flu vaccine, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and (if you had your first dose when you were younger) the HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papilloma virus that causes most cervical and anal cancers, and genital warts.
Older people, like many young adults, sometimes don’t know what foods they should be eating. Should they take supplements, or should they not? For people suffering from major illnesses (diabetes, obesity, kidney failure or heart disease), a medically prescribed diet will have to be followed. Such prescriptions should be formulated and applied with the guidance of a qualified doctor or dietician. For older people who are active and don’t have major diseases, a normal balanced diet can be followed. Many people continue consuming the same amount of calories as when they were younger; this often causes exponential weight gain and contributes to obesity. Consciously reduce your calorie intake as you get older (50 and above).
On the other hand, many older people tend to eat too little food and have serious energy deficiencies, which can lead to a variety of problems due to a suppressed immune system. The trick is to consume enough energy to maintain a healthy weight throughout one’s lifetime. It’s important that as you age, you eat foods that offer protein, vitamins and minerals. Keep your starches whole, your protein lean, your dairy skimmed, and your fruits and veggies fresh.
Regular exercise and strength training can help you look and feel younger, keeping you active longer into life. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (cycling or brisk walking) every week, with muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week, is advisable. Work all your major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).
The boosters recommended for older adults are seasonal influenza, tetanus (every 10 years) and pneumococcal vaccine (for those over 65).
It doesn’t take too much effort to look after your body. A few sacrifices will result in a longer, happier life. Skip that pack of potato chips today, and you can live to tell your grandkids to do the same!