Thu, 17 Aug 2023 Feature Article

Seven Bad Habits That Jeopardize Health

Dr. Alex SarkodieDr. Alex Sarkodie

Most chronic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and some types of cancers have been associated with unhealthy lifestyles. Here are seven of the unhealthy lifestyle practices

Sedentary life involves taking less than five thousand steps a day.

A sedentary lifestyle, especially among those who take less than four thousand steps/day, is associated with the development of metabolic syndrome, which is the gateway to most chronic diseases.

Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of 5 major disorders that increase the risk for Diabetes, Atherosclerotic heart diseases, Stroke, and early deaths, among the affected persons.

A person is said to have metabolic syndrome if they have 3 or more of the 5 disorders: high fasting blood glucose level, high triglycerides levels, low High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, high blood pressure and a high waist circumference.

Regular moderate to vigorous physical activities protects against the development of metabolic syndrome.

The following activities increase the risks for metabolic syndrome

. Sitting at a desk for longer than 42 hours per week (6 hours/day)

. Watching television for longer than 2 hours every day

. Sleeping for longer than 8 hours per night.

In addition to metabolic diseases, sedentary lifestyles have been associated with cardiovascular and joint diseases.

In the 1988 movie, “Coming to America”, the king was unhappy with Prince Akeem for participating in routine physical activities for daily living.

The king described the difficulty he once had when he attempted to tie his shoelace. With servants in attendance always, the king’s low level of physical activities was a recipe for poor health and early death.

As we age, the levels of one’s physical activities determine their health-status.

We must, therefore, fall in love with some types of physical activity (walking, running, jumping, dancing) and do it every day. Body movement improves our mood, promotes bone and immune health, and maintain strength.

A brisk walk is described as taking more than 100 steps per minute.

Brisk walking falls under the moderate intensity exercise category. The minimum duration of brisk walk must be 30 minutes (3,000 steps). Realistically 3,000 steps per day is inadequate for optimal health.

It takes a little over 2,000 steps to walk one mile. (Women 2.3 thousand steps/ mile; men 2.2 thousand steps/ mile).

The health benefits of walking could be realized when we take a total of greater than 7–10 thousand steps (4-5 miles of walking) throughout the day.

Recommendation: Everyone should be familiar with the Physical activity pyramid. Physical activity pyramid is a guide that helps adults plan out their physical activity, so it becomes an easy, routine part of everyday life,

Aerobic training alone is inadequate for total health; it takes a combination of resistance training and aerobic exercises to achieve total health.

Skeletal muscles grow in mass and strength when used to work against forces and weights.

Well-toned muscles are not only associated with younger looks, but they are also associated with good health and longevity in older adults.

Humans tend to gradually lose their muscle bulk and strength with aging. After middle age, we lose 1% of muscle mass each year. A lot more of muscle mass is lost during periods of prolonged inactivity.

Losing muscle mass means more glucose remains in the blood stream after meals. (Skeletal muscles absorb over 75% of the circulating blood glucose after meals).

Keeping continuous tension in muscles without relaxation helps muscles to adapt and grow.

Resistant training (Push-up, squats, sit ups, weightlifting, etc.) induces metabolic stress in the muscles. Metabolic stress activates the mROTC1 enzymes to initiate muscle protein synthesis.

Resistance training is the anabolic stimulus for muscle protein production and offers protection against muscle breakdown and muscle losses.

Resistance training, therefore, improves muscle strength and tone, and retains our muscle bulk throughout life.

One does not need to lift the heaviest of weights to gain muscles. Let us assume that the maximum (bar bell, kettle bell, dumb bell) weight you can lift one time is 50lbs.

Get a weight that is 70% of the maximum weight, in this case 35lbs. (50x70/100=35)

Use the 35lb weight to do 10-12 repetitions in a set.

Do 1-3 sets with one minute rest period length between the sets and exercises.

To allow Muscle to recover, rest each muscle group for at least 48 hours (about 2 days).

Combining strength-training workouts with aerobic exercises holds the keys to Healthspan and longevity.

Resistance training is the key to longevity. The less muscle mass you have as you age, the more likely you develop insulin resistance diabetes and obesity.

Studies indicate that muscle mass, independent of fat mass and cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors, is associated with lower mortality in older adults.

It is never too late to start building muscles with exercise and diet. It becomes more difficult to add muscles with advancing age, but it is achievable.

Doing both aerobic and strength training exercises concurrently is more efficient than doing either aerobic or resistance training alone (for the same length of training time) at improving muscle strength and visceral fat loss.

The cells in our body require time to do their “house-cleaning”. It is during the cellular house-cleaning that cellular debris including damaged organelles, DNA and toxic proteins, are isolated, broken down and recycled for new cellular proteins production. This cellular house-cleaning is known as cellular autophagy. (In October 2016, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for discovering the mechanisms for autophagy)

It is cellular autophagy that keeps cells young and healthy, and thus prolong disease-free lifespans.

The two major stimulants for autophagy are Fasting and Physical activities.

Poor dietary habits include:
. Eating all the time (eating all the time prevents cellular autophagy from taking place)

. Not fasting longer than 12-16 hours each day (to allow ample time for cellular autophagy to take place

. Not ingesting adequate quantities of dietary fibers.

A high dietary fiber intake is associated with low risk of all-cause death and metabolic heart diseases.

Dietary fibers slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates from the intestines and therefore, raise blood glucose slowly.

Insulin is secreted from the pancreas when blood glucose and the branched-chain amino acids levels rise after meals.

Insulin, which is a storage hormone, moves blood glucose into cells and stores excess glucose as glycogen and fats (triglycerides).

The higher the levels of insulin in the blood stream, the greater the storage and accumulation of body fat. Circulating blood insulin levels reflect post-prandial blood glucose levels.

Since dietary fibers slow the rise of post-meals blood glucose levels, dietary fibers limit the amount of insulin secreted after meals, and therefore, prevent body fat accumulation.

Persistent high levels of insulin in the blood are known as hyperinsulinemia and is associated with the development of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

High fiber diets protect against hyperinsulinemia; low fiber diet promotes hyperinsulinemia.

Persistent hyperinsulinemia allows more fat to be stored in the fat depots, and in ectopic sites like the liver, pancreas, and muscles. This leads to metabolic syndrome, heart diseases, and certain cancers.

The surest way to avoid metabolic syndrome is to avoid the state of hyperinsulinemia.

Here are five ways to prevent hyperinsulinemia

. Fasting
Insulin is secreted from the pancreas in response to rising levels of nutrients in the bloodstream.

Fasting prevents hyperinsulinemia; frequent eating promotes hyperinsulinemia.

It is recommended that adults fast for at least 12-14 hours overnight and eat less frequently during the daytime. Most adults can survive on 2 meals a day, not three meals.

. High fiber diets.
. Unprocessed whole plants-based diet has high fiber content. Meat and animal proteins have no fibers. Consuming plant foods in their natural state (with their high fiber content), tends to cause much lower spikes in blood glucose and insulin than the processed foods (low fiber content).

The legumes are examples of food with high fiber content.

Legumes are consumed regularly in the blue zone areas. The Blue zones are areas where people live much longer than the rest of the world population.

Beans are starchy foods. However, nearly half of the starch in legumes, amylopectin C.

Amylopectin C is resistant to digestion in the small intestines, and it passes down into the large intestines to feed the healthy gut bacteria population.

Beans consumption is therefore associated with much lower spikes in glucose and insulin in the blood, when compared to starchy foods, such as rice, and white bread that contain less resistant starch.

. Exercise and increased physical activity help skeletal muscles to absorb excess glucose from the blood circulation and lowers insulin levels. Skeletal muscle is our metabolic regulator

Regular exercise therefore reduces the risks for hyperinsulinemia.

. Inhibition of Digestive enzymes.
Organic acids (tartaric, acetic, citric, lactic acids, etc.) inhibit the activities of digestive enzymes (alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase).

By inhibiting the activities of the digestive enzymes, organic acids interfere with starch-digestion and glucose absorption from the intestines after meals.

Vinegar contains several types of organic acids including tartaric acid, citric acids, and acetic acid; lemon juice contains citric acid.

Adding a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to starchy meals decreases the spike in blood glucose and insulin levels after meals.

The organic acids in vinegar and lemon juice, therefore, do have antidiabetic capacity.

. Meal sequencing
Another practice is to eat vegetables (high fiber food) first, during a meal. This is followed by eating the proteins and fats, and lastly, the starchy foods. The presence of fiber slows starch digestion and absorption.

Taking time to visit nature is rewarding for physical and mental health.

The natural forest, the beaches, the mountains and various parks are places of relaxation, reflection, and downloading brilliant ideas/information from the Universe.

Walking barefoot allows free electrons on the earth's surface to enter the body and act as antioxidants that neutralize the free oxygen radicals that have accumulated in the body because of cellular metabolism.

Walk barefoot on beaches and lawns, and in the forest for 30 minutes. This singular act removes most free radicals from the body and decreases the levels of inflammation.

Spending time in nature around trees or in the Forest, improves our Physical and Mental Health status.

Trees and plants emit aromatic volatile oily substances, known as Phytoncides. Phytoncides protect plants from insects and germs. Phytoncides are also found in fruits and vegetables too.

Phytoncides saturate the forest environment, and when inhaled/absorbed into the human body, they promote immunity, reduce stress levels, and lowers blood pressures.

All works and no play make jack a dull boy.
A chapter a day: Association of Book reading with longevity.

In 2016, researchers at the Yale University school of public health designed a study, involving 3635 participants, to see the effect of book reading in persons 50 years and older. The outcome of that study was that, irrespective of race, education, health status, wealth, marital status and depression, people who read books for 30 minutes (one chapter a day) a day, regularly had a 20% lower risk of dying over the next 12 years compared with people who were not reading or who read periodicals.

The more books one could read, the greater the longevity benefits (Social Science & Medicine Volume 164, September 2016, Pages 44-48).

Therefore, make it a habit to read books, (not periodicals) at least one chapter in a book, every day.

Normal sex relation is part of healthy lifestyle.

On the other hand, dysfunctional sex relationships often lead to marital and family problems, and the sexually transmitted diseases.Monogamous sexual relationships are the healthiest.

Having side chicks and side cocks, are considered distractions that prove to be unhealthy and troublesome in the long run.

Perhaps practicing Celibacy, after the child-bearing ages, could be more rewarding and peaceful.

Sir Isaac Newton, Immanuel Kent, Herbert Spencer, Nikola Tesla and many other great scientists who helped to move the world, and mankind forward, were all celibates.

Individuals with adequate social relationships have a 50% greater likelihood of survival compared to those with poor or insufficient social relationships. Indeed, we humans are hard-wired for connection and oneness.Dr

We thrive because of the care and nurturance of others. Infants would indeed, die without social interaction

Without meaningful and supportive social interactions humans develop poor health.

Social relationships, or the lack thereof, constitute a major risk factor for health-rivaling the effect of well-established health risk factors such as cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity, and physical activity. -House, Landis, and Umberson; Science 1988

Many people who feel lonely or lack social interactions develop health problems including:

. Poor Immunity, High blood pressure, Heart diseases, Anxiety, depression, Dementia and Premature deaths.

Making friends, especially quality friendships, and working at maintaining those friendships benefits everyone involved. Quality friendship is a protective factor for both physical and mental health

Effective friendships, which are characterized by intimacy, support and reciprocity, provide companionship, build self-esteem and bring life satisfaction, and remove the feelings of loneliness.

Reach out to people who have similar vibrations as yours and connect to them.

Join a religious group like a church, the fellowships; other clubhouses.

Through volunteering our services, we obtain maximal joy

Go for a walk in the parks and at the malls where you interact with people.

Having meaningful and lovely conversations with others calms the nerves and improves moods.

Alex Sarkodie, MD.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024