Dr. M. R. Krishnamurthy is a primary care physician with 42 years of experience. After completing his MBBS, he has worked in the U.K. and Canada.
In this article, I would like to combine prevention of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity, as they all go hand in hand.
A generation ago, apart from stroke, other issues like obesity, diabetes and heart diseases were not quite common. This was because people were physically active (taking a bus or cycle to offices and schools, or plain walking). The food they ate was mostly homemade, using simple ingredients. This has changed drastically now. People eat out more often, which gives more calories than homemade food. Added to this is the packaged food in the form of bakery goods, chips, cookies, burgers, pizzas, etc. A combination of high calorie food on a regular basis with less physical activity is a good recipe for weight gain. We all have diabetes genes in us which is waiting to express itself as soon as we gain weight. The exception to this is type 1 diabetes in children.
High blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks and heart failure, kidney disease, blindness and stroke, often occurs along with diabetes in the same patient. Smoking increases the risk of all these complications.
Unfortunately, all the dairy we get in our cities, apart from organic milk, contains hormones injected into the cattle, to produce more milk. This causes early puberty in girls, cysts in the ovaries causing menstrual irregularities, and later, difficulties in conceiving. So, milk and milk products like cheese and paneer should be used sparingly. Buttermilk is fine, as most of the fat is removed.
Salt restriction to prevent high blood pressure is controversial and in a tropical country like ours where we lose salt in sweat, it may not be important except when specifically advised by a doctor. In fact, if you take up any physical activity, you may need more salt, as just water is not enough to quench your thirst. You can get muscle cramps if you don’t add salt to whatever you are drinking.
Maintaining an ideal weight is essential in preventing both diabetes and high blood pressure. In my earlier article on nutrition, I have given a few hints on managing weight issues. A frequently used method to determine if you are overweight is to measure your height and waist circumference (the widest part of the tummy). The latter should be half of your height. For example, if you are 5’6” tall, your waist should not be more than 33 inches. This is easier to keep track of instead of BMI.
So, to summarize, to prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity;
Maintain ideal weight
Do not smoke or use tobacco products of any kind
Consume alcohol in moderation (60 ml of spirits for males and 30 ml for females max per day). If you are not drinking, don’t start and if you already are, cut down to minimum.
Get some physical activity (walk, skip rope, cycle, swim, etc.)
Install a pedometer on your cell phone or get a fitbit and, get 10,000 steps every day.
Eat out only during special occasions and try to avoid fried food, anything that looks too oily, milk-based sweets, pastries, milk shakes, ice creams, fruit juices with added sugar.
Don’t forget to consume fruits and vegetables (250 grams of each, every day for the rest of your life).