Thursday, February 18, 2010

The rise and fall of Cholesterol!!

I often thought high Cholesterol is something that either older people have or people who have severe health issues or those who are alcoholics or are over weight or those who eat non-vegetarian foods. In this blog I am going to talk about my battle with cholesterol. What I thought of it, how I decided to fight it without medication and what changes I had to make to get to my goals. I am no doctor but natural treatments have only benefited me. I remember sitting nervously on February 5, 2010 in the doctor’s office. She looked at my Triglycerides and exclaimed – Oh my god your triglycerides are high. I peeped over my report and saw it was 238. I was so excited I nearly jumped over my chair. She could not understand how I can be happy with such high numbers; your triglycerides should be less than 150 she remarked sternly. I told her – doctor I achieved this number with no medication and purely based on diet and exercise. My triglycerides were 327 in 2009 and I had brought it down to 238. My total cholesterol was never in the normal range in the last 5 years and finally I had it under the normal range. How can I not be happy? To me this new number is my success story not failure. It was the result of a deliberate and planned program I made for myself. It was the result of hard work, faith and research. I will bring that triglyceride number down. That is a promise I made to myself.

To start with let me share my health numbers so that we can make a comparison of how far I have come: I have listed the changes in the numbers on my Cholesterol below:
My total cholesterol (200-239 IS borderline mg/dl >240 IS HIGH)
• 2008 = 212
• 2009 = 243
• 2010 = 181
My Triglycerides (150-199 borderline high and >200 is high)
• 2008 = 213
• 2009 = 327
• 2010 = 238
My LDL (bad cholesterol) (normal <100 MG/DL)
• 2008 = 131.4
• 2009 = 137
• 2010 = 97
My HDL (good cholesterol) (normal between 37-60)
• 2008 = 38
• 2009 = 41
• 2010 = 36
There are several myths about high Cholesterol. Smoking, excessive amounts of alcohol and stress do lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, hypertension and bronchitis amongst others. However I was not entirely correct when it came to non-vegetarian foods. Eating non-vegetarian food sensibly (cutting down red meat and increasing the intake of sea foods) does not lead to high cholesterol. In fact eating sea food is a healthy choice and a great source of Omega 3 (essential unsaturated fats). However it is true that vegetarian foods eaten with less oil has lower degrees of cholesterol and is considered a healthier choice. Vegetarian foods – mainly fruits and vegetables, are high in fiber and nutrients and low in fat and therefore preferred. We will talk about how sexy fiber really is a bit later.

Most health web sites have complicated data that needs to be broken down into simpler information so we can imbibe these healthy habits in our daily lives. Each individual will have to explore what fits best for their needs. However some things are the same for everyone. So I will embark on my own journey and may be you can find striking similarities in yours – I call this “the rise and fall of Cholesterol!!” I am no doctor and don’t claim that this works, it worked for me!

When I first learned that I had cholesterol slightly higher than normal way back in 2003 I thought very little of it. Youth is an arrogant adversary of health. To me Cholesterol was something my dad had because he smoked and ate non-vegetarian foods. But I did not smoke, I was a social drinker, I ate vegetarian food, my weight was in the normal range, yet as the years ticked by my cholesterol started rising. I was told- walk 30 minutes per day and you will not need any medicines. That predictably did not happen as I hated exercising, so definitely I had an attitude issue when it came to giving my health a priority. Most of us at age 30 don’t think that we could have high cholesterol or any other disease as a matter of fact. As the years progressed I started practicing different types of exercise regimes, mostly out of guilt and ending most of them because of frustration and boredom. I did power yoga, going for walks and walking on the treadmill. I also tried aerobics and found that I was severely out of step. It was not fun at all. I however incorporated physical activities in my daily life. I walk faster than many others, I run up and down the stairs in my house; I don’t park right next to a store or my daughter’s school and prefer walking a little distance. Baby steps but it opened a window to a healthier lifestyle.

In the year 1998 I was told by my doctor that it would be difficult for me to have children. I was also asked to consider adoption. I had blocked fallopian tubes which left me with only one option – IVF. For those who don’t know what it is – In vitro fertilization is nothing but Test Tube baby. I battled infertility for three long years and nothing worked. My heart was not in it. I always knew in my gut that I will have two kids but not this way. It was a time of despair and frustration. The inability to have children told me only one thing that my body had failed me. I went through bouts of depression, watching painfully as all my friends had their first and then their second babies while I prayed for a miracle. And the miracle did happen. I met an Ayurvedic doctor in India who specialized in the area of gynecology and sought his help. He put me on a strict diet regime and some basic medicines. The medicines were mainly for digestion. Ayurveda believes that all diseases stem from the stomach. Even modern medicine promotes high fiber diets. My doctor predicted that in year’s time I would possibly conceive. I did – in seven months. I still remember the day I called him from Seattle telling him I was pregnant. He was in utter shock. That was the first time I realized that he was actually not that hopeful. He still calls me his miracle patient. I had very slim chances and I beat the odds. I now have two beautiful daughters and needless to say, I was cured.

This success brought to my notice how diet and exercise can change the way your health is. For some diseases you have to take medicines but for some you can battle it out with natural treatments – which basically meant altering your lifestyle. Faith (or the power of the mind) and natural treatments are two allies we all want in our lives. I realized that what we eat and how our lifestyle is has an irreprehensible impact on our health. The seed of eating right was planted. I decided it was time for me to create a plan. But I don’t believe in coincidences and in my life I have seen situations where I could turn around diseases based on what I ate and how my lifestyle was.

After my second daughter (who is now a bubbly 4 year old) was born I dreaded the idea of losing all those 50 lbs I had put on during my pregnancy. But being a mother of two and living in the United States I had no choice but to put in extra effort in organizing my life and my health. With the support of my very best friends I started walking around 3 miles everyday. We lived in Sammamish, a city close to Redmond, Washington. Sammamish was full of hills and the street I lived on was absurdly uphill. I remember that feeling of pain as I struggled to push a very heavy stroller with a baby in it up SE. 8th every single day. I convinced myself that the fat was burning. I experienced near death on a daily basis and felt oxygen waving goodbye at every step. Despite the thrill of conquering the hill I always wondered why people put themselves up to such torture. I have often read and heard that exercise should be a pleasurable experience and that you should stop if you are feeling pain. I convinced myself that this was all in vain but the pressure of others made me go on. I did lose some weight in 4 months as I continued this journey but I attribute it mostly to tiredness and fatigue that came with running household of two very young and active kids.

Although I was convinced that what I ate affects my weight and my health, I was not happy with the exercise and lifestyle bit. More work had to be done; more damage had to be done before I realized I had to act fast.

All these experiences and short miracles stayed in my mind as I had on and off affairs with exercises. It wasn’t until June 2009 that I decided its time to take charge again. My triglycerides were inexcusably high, over 300 actually, when the normal ranges ask them to be below 150. My total cholesterol kept swinging in the wrong direction and the doctors now finally prescribed medicines. I remember the doctor telling me, “I get athletes with heart attacks- it’s your genes what can you do?” I took the medicines for two days and experienced severe side effects. Again my heart was not in this form of treatment and I started my research on this subject. I researched, ‘ways to reduce cholesterol, diets for those with high cholesterol’ and so on. Slowly I gathered my data and made some amazingly simple discoveries that I incorporated in my plan.
THREE things are very important to keep in mind:

• What you weigh? - WEIGHT
• What you eat? - DIET
• What you do?- YOUR METABOLISM & LIFESTYLE


WHAT YOU WEIGH?

Let’s start with your weight: It is very important to know what your weight is, not just in terms of pounds or kilos only but also with respect to height and body fat and hips ratio. How do you measure what your correct weight is? Three ways,
i. Your actual weight in kilos or pounds
ii. Your BMI – Body Mass Index
iii. Your WAIST-HIP RATIO (WHR) & BODY PERCENTAGE SCORE

To see if your weight is in the normal range look at these numbers. The correct and recommended weight range depends on your height and your body muscle/frame.

Height and Weight Table for Women
Height
Feet Inches Small
Frame Medium
Frame Large
Frame
4' 10" 102-111 109-121 118-131
4' 11" 103-113 111-123 120-134
5' 0" 104-115 113-126 122-137
5' 1" 106-118 115-129 125-140
5' 2" 108-121 118-132 128-143
5' 3" 111-124 121-135 131-147
5' 4" 114-127 124-138 134-151
5' 5" 117-130 127-141 137-155
5' 6" 120-133 130-144 140-159
5' 7" 123-136 133-147 143-163
5' 8" 126-139 136-150 146-167
5' 9" 129-142 139-153 149-170
5' 10" 132-145 142-156 152-173
5' 11" 135-148 145-159 155-176
6' 0" 138-151 148-162 158-179

Weights at ages 25-59 based on lowest mortality. Weight in pounds according to frame (in indoor clothing weighing 3 lbs.; shoes with 1" heels)
Height and Weight Table for Men
Height
Feet Inches Small
Frame Medium
Frame Large
Frame
5' 2" 128-134 131-141 138-150
5' 3" 130-136 133-143 140-153
5'' 4" 132-138 135-145 142-156
5' 5" 134-140 137-148 144-160
5' 6" 136-142 139-151 146-164
5' 7" 138-145 142-154 149-168
5' 8" 140-148 145-157 152-172
5' 9" 142-151 148-160 155-176
5' 10" 144-154 151-163 158-180
5' 11" 146-157 154-166 161-184
6' 0" 149-160 157-170 164-188
6' 1" 152-164 160-174 168-192
6' 2" 155-168 164-178 172-197
6' 3" 158-172 167-182 176-202
6' 4" 162-176 171-187 181-207

Weights at ages 25-59 based on lowest mortality. Weight in pounds according to frame (in indoor clothing weighing 5 lbs.; shoes with 1" heels)

Being underweight or overweight are recognized risk factors for many diseases, namely hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemias, and perhaps certain types of cancers.
Remember, these are statistical averages and not absolutes. If you are very muscular, the chart will be inaccurate for you.


When I started this journey I was still in the correct weight range but was not eating right or drinking enough water. Exercise was a distant cousin. I set myself an achievable goal. I need to lose around 3 kilos by 6 months and get to a weight I am comfortable with. I was tired of the muffins around my belly – it was like a sign that says “hey back off I had two babies”. No more excuses as the cholesterol rose. I hit 40 with a vengeance and found that my energy levels were dropping. I have never been fat but I was not healthy either.

The next thing to understand is your BMI- or the Body Mass Index. In simple words it is your mass/weight divided by your height. “It is used to estimate a healthy body weight based on a person's height. Due to its ease of measurement and calculation, it is the most widely used diagnostic tool to identify weight problems within a population, usually whether individuals are underweight, overweight or obese.”
So in my case currently my weight is 135 lbs and height is 5 ft 6” my BMI is 21.9.
(http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/)
What Does the BMI Number Mean?
Your BMI will place you in one of the following categories:
• Those with a BMI below 18.5 are considered underweight.
• Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered normal weight.
• Those with a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 are considered overweight
• Those with a BMI of 30.0 and above are considered obese.
In addition to BMI, those who have a waist size of more than 40 inches for men, or 35 inches for women, have a higher risk for obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Lastly let’s try and understand your WAIST-HIP RATIO (WHR) & BODY PERCENTAGE SCORE.
In short measure your waist above the belly button using measure tape. Then measure the widest part of your hip. Divide the waist measure by the hip measure to get your WHR. So if your waist measures 85cm and hips 95cm, your WHR is 85 divided by 95, or 0.89. For women, a healthy WHR range is 0.7-0.8; for men, it is 0.85-1. If you find yourself complaining about love handles, a muffin top, pot belly or beer belly even though your weight and body mass index (BMI, a height-weight ratio) are ideal, chances are your WHR is high.

Too much fat in the abdominal region increases the risk of a cluster of conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes (called metabolic syndrome). So gear up for the optimal WHR challenge this year: 0.7 for women and 0.9 for men. These scores give you optimal health advantages: greater fertility; reduced risk of heart attack, diabetes, ovarian and prostate cancers; and for women, easier menopause.
Read more: http://www.livemint.com/2010/01/11181853/Better-health-numbers-for-2010.html?atype=tp

What you eat?

I knew that my weight was ok and my BMI also was in the normal range. But something was still wrong. I was not healthy. So I diverted my attention on food. I mostly ate healthy or so I thought, I am a vegetarian, did not smoke, drink socially so what was going wrong? I realized I needed to focus on two types of foods:

1. Foods to get my digestion in order aka fiber.
2. Foods that increase my good cholesterol and reduce my bad cholesterol.

In case of digestion – FIBER-FIBER-FIBER- I cannot emphasize enough the importance of fiber. I remember the year 2000 when my Ayurvedic doctor put me on these deadly laxatives and told me you can forget any other medicine but never forget to take these. Cleansing of your system is extremely important for healthy results.

Fiber is a virtually indigestible substance that is found mainly in the outer layers of plants. Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate that passes through the human digestive system virtually unchanged, without being broken down into nutrients. Carbohydrates constitute the main source of energy for all body functions. Found solely in plant foods, fiber contains no calories but makes you feel full, which helps control overeating.
Almost everyone hears about the need for enough fiber in the diet. But few people understand the importance of dietary fiber - or where to get it.
Fiber is important because it has an influence on the digestion process from start to finish:
• Because it demands that food be more thoroughly chewed, fiber slows down the eating process and helps contribute to a feeling of being full, which in turn can help prevent obesity from overeating.
• Fiber makes food more satisfying, probably because the contents of the stomach are bulkier and stay there longer.
• Fiber slows digestion and absorption so that glucose (sugar) in food enters the bloodstream more slowly, which keeps blood sugar on a more even level.
• Fiber is broken down in the colon (the main part of the large intestine) by bacteria (a process called fermentation), and the simple organic acids produced by this breakdown helps to nourish the lining of the colon.
• These acids also provide fuel for the rest of the body, especially the liver, and may have an important role in metabolism.
Substantial amounts of fiber can be found in foods such as:
• All-natural cereals
• Whole-grain breads
• Beans
• Fruits
• Vegetables- salads
• Nuts
Both kinds of fiber—insoluble fiber and soluble fiber—are good for you.

Insoluble fiber doesn't easily dissolve in water and is not broken down by intestinal bacteria. (This type doesn't lower your cholesterol but still has an effect on your digestive system.) It's found in grapefruit, oranges, grapes, raisins, dried fruit, sweet potatoes, peas and zucchini—but especially in whole-wheat or whole-grain bread (it has to be whole grain, not five- or six-grain, to have enough fiber).

Soluble fiber dissolves in water; it regulates metabolism and digestion and stabilizes blood glucose levels. And it's mostly found in grains such as oats, barley, and rye, legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils, and some cereals.

Eating 25 grams of fiber a day can give you a RealAge effect of being as much as three years younger than that of a person who only eats 12 grams a day (the average for American adults). Plus, one study showed that a 10-gram increase in the daily intake of fiber decreases the risk of heart attack by 29 percent—and makes you 1.9 years younger.



Women need about 25 grams a day, and men need 35 grams a day. "That's somewhere between seven and nine helpings of fruits and vegetables.

While you should aim for around 30 grams of fiber a day, the key is bulking up in the morning. Studies show that consuming fiber in the morning (at breakfast) makes you less hungry in late afternoon—a notorious candy-sucking, diet-busting time of day.

Great sources of breakfast fiber include oatmeal, cereal, whole grains, and fruit.

IT’S POOP TIME

If you radically increase your intake of fiber, though, you may feel gassy. "Your intestinal tract isn't ready for it," Dr. Oz (popular for his remarks on poop on the Oprah show) says. "The fiber in the bowel is permeated by all these bacteria, the bacteria eat the fiber, and they make gas. That's their waste product. So you've got to slowly build up when you add fiber to your diet. But at the end of the day, you're going to have some gas. But it's a good sign because you're digesting food that's good for you." Start with 1 to 2 grams of dietary fiber before meals and bedtime and slowly increase to 5 grams (if you add it all at once, you'll produce more gas than a Saudi oil field). Dr Oz also talks about the importance of poop. Not the most interesting topic but the shape of your poop determines the state of your health. Read below:
http://www.oprah.com/health/Everybody-Poops
When it comes to figuring out if you're digesting things properly and eating healthy, Dr. Mehmet Oz says that you should rely on your senses in the bathroom. For starters, have you ever thought about the importance of what your bowel movement sounds like when it hits the water? Listen up!

"You want to hear what the stool, the poop, sounds like when it hits the water. If it sounds like a bombardier, you know, 'plop, plop, plop,' that's not right because it means you're constipated. It means the food is too hard by the time it comes out. It should hit the water like a diver from Acapulco hits the water [swoosh]."
The next thing Dr. Oz recommends is looking at your stool—c'mon, you've done it before! You should look twice—look at the shape and then, the color.

"It should be an S shape and you want to make sure the color's normal because the color of the poop tells you a lot about how you made it," Dr. Oz says. "You don't want [pieces]. Food is a medicine for you. It helps you. [If the stool is in pieces] by the time you finished digesting your food, you don't have enough of it left to poop out in the right way and probably it's hurt the colon that has to process it. At the end of the day you can analyze your body really effectively by looking at what comes out of your body."



GOOD FOODS TO EAT:

Here is the bottom line: Processed foods are bad, high calorie foods are bad, high sugar content in food is bad, fast food is bad, flavored and carbonated drinks are bad. We all already know this but how often do we consciously avoid these foods? I am a great believer in balance. We work our entire lives striving for balance. Balance between work, schools, social lives, education and hobbies and travel. Why can’t we find that balance in our eating habits? If we are conscious of this need for balance then we need to ask ourselves:

• Out of 7 days in a week, can we eat wholesome meals for at least 4-5 days (*see what I eat all five days a week below)?
• Can we drink 8-10 glasses of water all week and indulge in a glass of wine or carbonated drinks over the weekend?
• Can we include salads in every meal? And up our fiber intake?
• Can we include a good intake of protein and calcium in our diets at least 5 times a week? Nuts, milk, paneer, eggs? (As I am a vegetarian it is not easy for me to recommend meat and therefore you may find that I don’t include that in my list- you decide if it works for you)
• Can we eat at least 1-2 fruits in a day? Again up our fiber intake?
• Can we introduce good foods to our kids? Take them grocery shopping and get them excited about foods? We only bake cookies and brownies with our kids? What about some healthy recipes?
• Can we include a high fiber breakfast at least 5 times a week? Oat meals, whole wheat bread/flax seed bread etc.

*Here is what I eat on a daily basis – I started this in Sept 2009 and I truly believe that it has helped me reduce my cholesterol: You will find that these changes are not drastic – they are little, they are doable and they are important.

BREAKFAST: I PACK A PUNCH RIGHT HERE:

1. I start the day with at least 2 glasses of water preferably warm – this is around 7 am.
2. The previous night I make curds or yogurt (just a cup) and in it I soak 3-5 cloves of garlic. Take care not to chop it but to set it with the curds as whole pieces. Garlic is known to reduce triglyceride levels and also is said to reduce bad cholesterol. I eat that in the morning DAILY. (http://www.cuisinecuisine.com/How%20To%20Make%20Yogurt.htm)
3. I eat 3 walnuts and 5-7 almonds daily.
4. I eat an apple or papaya daily.
5. After that I start drinking tea- I read somewhere that you should never drink tea on an empty stomach. I avoid sugar in my tea and treat myself to a tea with sugar on Sundays. I appreciate that tea a lot now and savor it. My tea usually includes ginger (see the benefits of ginger http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/product/gteabeni.html)
6. After about 45 minutes I do minimum 30 minutes of exercise. After and during exercise I drink couple more glasses of water.
7. My breakfast (around 9 am) includes a bowl of oatmeal cooked in skimmed milk with honey added to it. I eat Oatmeal with honey because honey is considered better than sugar (honey also offers incredible antiseptic, antioxidant and cleansing properties for our body and health, hot beauty and skin care tips for ladies, and amazing healing properties as a head-to-toe remedy, from eye conjunctivitis to athlete foot. Its powerful healing attributes have long been used thousands of years ago and known to promote healing for cuts, cure ailments and diseases, and correct health disorders for generations after generations).. Oatmeal is said to help lower cholesterol which is why started it. (http://www.quakeroats.com/oats-do-more/for-your-heart/heart-disease.aspx)
8. Along with that I eat 2 whole wheat toasts.
9. Last but not the least I wash down 2 tablets. One Flaxseed oil capsules and second multivitamins. It is recommended that you increase your flaxseed consumption to prevent heart disease.
10. By the time I am done with breakfast I have already consumed 6 glasses of water.


I cannot emphasize enough the importance of water. Water not only helps in preventing dehydration but also helps in the digestion process, is a healthier choice over high calorie beverages and is great for your skin. Read here for how much and what to look out for: http://www.wikihow.com/Drink-More-Water-Every-Day. Most people are advised to drink at least 8-10 glasses per day. The general rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and divide it by two. The resulting number is the number of ounces of water you need each day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., strive to drink 75 ounces of water daily. For those who use the Metric system, divide your weight (in kilograms) by 30 (ex. somebody weighing 70 kg is going to need 2.3 liters per day). These numbers are controversial as you have to look at many factors before in taking too much water.

I do visit the bathroom very often as a result of this but it is a minor price I pay to stay healthy.

LUNCH
I eat a well balanced lunch that includes salad, vegetables, roti (Indian bread), or some soup and rice. Again I look for foods rich in protein, fiber and minerals and foods that are low in fat. After lunch I have my calcium supplements (highly recommended for women over 35).

The thing about food is – if eaten every 2-3 hours helps build a healthier body by increasing your metabolism rate. Imagine a person not eating for hours, downing cups and cups of coffee or even smoking heavily, what kind of treatment are they meting out to their own bodies? If you eat every 2-3 hours you never get the feeling over having over eaten or a sugar low. Look into your weekly eating habits and count on your finger tips how much fiber and protein do you actually consume?
How much junk food you eat or how much sugar based food you consume and you will be surprised. I always thought I ate well but when I sat down to recording my food intake I realized how much was missing in my diet. One great tip for those looking for weight loss: Record what you eat and drink for a month and you will be shocked at what you eat.

TEA TIME
I drink a glass of green tea every day (I hear the more the merrier) which has great anti-oxidant qualities. Now antioxidants lower cellular damage in your body, they help fend off diseases, great fighter of cancer, reduces fat in the body. With green tea I either eat a fruit or a low fat snack. You get great snacks like blueberries and cranberries that have awesome amounts of antioxidants.

DINNER

We eat dinner by 7:30 pm. This is quite different from a typical Indian household I notice but is increasingly becoming a meal time of choice. Eating three hours before bedtime is recommended and advised. Ideally a diet with fewer carbohydrates (avoid potato and rice at night) is the right one for dinner time. Again we include salads. One thing I learnt from a friend that seem to work on my kids is – cut different salad items like lettuce, tomato, carrots, radish, onions and arrange it separately in a plate. Kids then like to pick the vegetable of their choice and this adds a healthy item to their plate. My kids have to finish their dal (lentils) as it is a huge source of protein for us vegetarians. We started preparing a low spice dals for them which they eat readily. I make sure that I have 1-2 cups of dal during dinner and either skip rice or have very little of it. My battle with potatoes continues. I am working on it.

EXERCISE – THE DISTANT COUSIN?


So this sounds like a strict regiment doesn’t it? The truth is that I decided that I am not going to overdo anything but I am going to increase my inner awareness around food and lifestyle. For me 5 out of 7 days of good and very healthy eating satiates my guilt of not eating right. The weekends are for indulgence and cutting some slack. I love junk foods especially the Indian chaats and sweets. I eat a little bit of everything. I am the president of the anti-size zero committee – who likes them skinny people? Just kidding folks. True happiness doesn’t come for thinner bodies it comes from a weekly dose of dark chocolate and I eat them big time. Hear that is good for the heart as well – yippee. This brings us to the topic of exercise.

Why should I indulge in any activity that either bores me or is too tiring or not fun at all? No pain no gain – who said that?I figured I have around 30+ years left on this earth and if all goes well I may as well enjoy what I am doing. So after years of going through exercises that didn’t work for me I decided to try the Wii Fit program. IN fact the Wii Fit program sat nicely on my shelf for a year before I decided I would give it a shot. For those who don’t know what this is – check it out. http://wiifit.com/ Here is the disclaimer – I don’t work for Nintendo the makers of the Wii program. Nor am I am here to promote it. It’s what worked for me and that is what you need to discover. What works for you?

Wii Fit has a number of exercise options that include yoga, aerobics, strength training, balance board game. It also has a body test that you can take every day and that also measures your weight and BMI. You can choose to do this test daily. Trust me, that’s motivating. It helps you keep record of how you are progressing and allows you to do a mix of exercises. ONE day I may choose to only do stretching and strength training or just aerobics or a combination depending on my mood. And I am moody, ask my husband! It also has a trainer who gives you a demo and also walks you through the exercise and motivates you. It is also quite sarcastic when you screw up which I don’t care for much but grudgingly acknowledge that it works. I strive harder to do better next time. I use Wii Fit every day for at least 30 minutes and usually not more than 45 minutes. It doesn’t hamper my day schedule at all and it’s well worth it. As I gain my strength I will work on a one hour workout but I don’t need to. That is a program I like – flexible, effective and enjoyable. Plus I incorporate small activities that promote exercise. Like for example “I walk and talk” – when I am on the phone I walk the entire time I am talking. Sometimes I am on the phone for over 15 minutes and I spend those 15 minutes walking. I climb stairs instead of choosing the elevator, I sip water from my one liter bottle while I sitting in front of the computer and get my 4 glasses from there, I avoid the fried part of a meal and go for the gravy or protein content, I stock up on salads and eat them in bulk, I buy snacks that are either baked or are nutritious, you get the drift right? It’s the little things – all you got to do is include them in your lives. These changes are small but very effective.

What you do? - YOUR METABOLISM & LIFESTYLE

I am now over 40 and I realized that losing weight wasn’t easy for me anymore and there is a reason for it. It’s your metabolism. After 40 losing weight is harder as your metabolism slows down. I had researched this topic before and am going to simply copy paste that research here:
When we eat, food is converted into energy. The term "metabolism" refers to the way -- not the speed – that your body processes and uses the food you eat. Rather than "faster" or "slower" metabolism, it's most accurate to describe metabolism as efficient or functional versus inefficient or dysfunctional.
Steps: http://www.wikihow.com/Increase-Your-Metabolism#_note-0
1. Understand what metabolism is. In the simplest terms, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. Very few people have a fast metabolism, and overweight individuals generally have slow metabolisms because their fat cells are consuming energy.[1] However, a faster metabolism will enable you to lose more weight than your friend, even if you both have the same activity level, diet, and weight. Sounds unfair? That is a reality!
2. Determine what is influencing your metabolism. There are some factors that you can change, and some factors that you can't.
o Age - metabolism decreases five percent per decade after age 40[2]
o Gender - men generally burn calories more quickly than women because they have more muscle tissue[2]. Well women are better at multitasking so not an issue.
o Heredity - you can inherit your metabolic rate from previous generations[2]. Can’t do much here!
o Thyroid disorder - hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) can slow down or speed up metabolism, but only 3 and .3 percent of the population have hypo- and hyperthyroidism.[3]
3. Eat small, frequent meals. Extending the time between meals makes your body goes into "starvation mode," which decreases your metabolism as a means to conserve energy and prevent starvation. Skipping meals does not help you cut calories or lose weight; in fact, people generally eat less overall when they eat small, frequent meals. In addition to having four to six small meals per day[6] eating healthy snacks will also increase metabolism.[2]
4. Drink water. As with food, depriving your body of water can encourage it to "hoard" rather than "burn". More than ninety percent of the chemical reactions in your body occur in water, so make sure you drink an appropriate amount of water.
5. Boost metabolism temporarily with aerobic exercise. Different activities burn different quantities of calories, but the important thing is to raise your heart rate and sustain the activity for approximately thirty minutes.
6. Boost metabolism in the long run with weight training (am yet to explore this option). Muscle burns more calories than fat does (73 more calories per kilogram per day, to be exact)[2] so the more muscle you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR) will be. Every muscle cell that you gain is like a little factory that constantly burns calories for you, even while you sleep, and revs up when you exercise. This is the only way to increase RMR, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn daily.[7]
• Foods with higher amounts of fiber also have a high thermic effect. This is why people who eat 40% protein 40% carbohydrate and 20% mainly monounsaturated fat diets do very well, especially if they are carbohydrate sensitive and/or endomorphs.
• Some sugar substitutes may adversely affect metabolism and weight loss.[8] I avoid anything that is not natural. I don’t mean organic because however tragic it sounds organic food is not cheap. I buy it when I can but not always. I meant sugar or honey instead of Splenda or Equal. For some reason I can’t subject my body to substitutes. It feels wrong so I don’t do it I have no data to support that it is bad. I hear aspartame is not the best thing for your body- again no proof just a hunch.
• Very low-carb diets are said to burn more calories because the body expends energy in a system of changing fats and proteins into glucose.
Another article from a doctor on Metabolism – trying to make this more believable as I am no doctor. Also it offers simple tips.
How to Increase Your Metabolism -- a Doctor's Perspective
Things you’ll need:
• Sugarless gum - Studies have shown that using your muscles during the day, even when you're not intentionally exercising, can burn a significant amount of calories, too. For example, standing or sitting up straight (using your muscles to maintain your posture rather than leaning on a chair back, or even worse, lying down) will burn more calories; fidgeting or kicking your legs rather than sitting still is a big metabolism booster, too. Even chewing gum uses your jaw muscles and burns extra calories -- just make sure it's sugar-free gum, or the calories in the gum could overshadow the calories you burn by chewing! The more you move, the more you burn.

• ice - Similarly, your body must work to maintain its temperature close to 98.6 degrees -- therefore, if you drink a lot of ice water, your body has to waste energy warming it up; if you sit in a cold room and don't bundle up in extra blankets, your body will have to work harder to keep you warm. Think of the extreme example of shivering -- that is actual muscle contraction/activity that occurs in your body involuntarily to create heat... and all that heat-generation burns calories.
• high-protein diet - Eating more protein and less fat will cause your body to burn more calories . This is related to the molecular structure of fat, carbohydrate, and protein molecules -- protein molecules have a structure that requires more processing than usual to make them useful to the body. So if your diet consists of more protein and less fat and carbs, you'll increase your metabolism with every meal/snack you eat. But I believe that if you up the protein in your diet make sure you burn it off. The day I put peanut butter on my toast I choose aerobics in my exercise regime. No amount of saturated fats help your body so take these sparingly and work harder that day.
• dumbells (or heavy items) for strength training - Muscle-building will boost your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Strength training will help build muscle -- and the more muscle you have in your body, the more calories it takes you to maintain your weight, even while you sleep. This is why men have faster metabolisms than women do -- they simply have more muscle, and muscle accounts for about 40% of the RMR. For every pound of muscle that you gain by weight-training, your body will burn approximately 5-10 extra calories per day at rest.
Keep in mind that even women *bodybuilders* generally only increase their muscle mass by 5-10 pounds, so the average woman doing less strength training than that will not be able to add more than a pound or two of muscle. And even adding a whopping 5 pounds of muscle would cause you to burn only an additional 25-50 calories per day. Compare that to running -- a 150-pound woman can burn 25-50 calories by running for just 3-5 minutes! This is why aerobic exercise is the key to boosting your metabolism -- for the amount of time and effort involved, nothing beats weight-bearing aerobic exercise
• Walking/running shoes - Running is by far the best metabolism-booster out there. I am not comfortable with running as it has long term implications on your knee. I am not convinced that it will work for me.


SPECIAL MENTION FOODS

Here is some additional research I pulled out and would like to share: I am yet to read the book Jungle Effects by Daphne Miller, MD. Excerpt from Amazon.com on this book: Family physician Miller had seen countless cases of chronic illness and weight gain, but it wasn't until she saw a patient recently returned from Brazil that a light bulb went off in her head: the patient had noticed marked improvement after just a few weeks in her father's native village. Intrigued, Miller did some research and found a number of "cold spots" around the world, areas where chronic diseases like diabetes, depression and heart disease are disproportionately low. She then embarked on a world tour to find out why. As she travels through Copper Canyon, Mexico to Cameroon, West Africa to Iceland-where locals manage to avoid depression in one of the darkest and coldest regions in the world-and beyond, Miller finds that, in each case, local diet plays a key role. Many of her overarching tips will sound familiar (eat fresh foods, eat more fish, avoid refined sugar, watch the salt, etc.), but a handful of suggestions, such as eating fermented foods and using mushrooms to fight cancer, should come as news. Miller's work is consistently informative and educational, if at times meandering; each "cold spot" is accompanied by a specific regimen, and Miller's practical advice and recipes are all geared for the novice. Anyone unafraid of modifying their diet will find this anthropological diet guide useful.

I will have it in another two weeks and add my comments on it, those who have read it please share your comments but again the emphasis is on what you eat.

• If you have a high calcium diet you [could] … double your fat excretion," Dr. Oz says (Again famous for his poop statement on Oprah). "You can actually get rid of twice as much of that fat if you have calcium, adequate amounts of calcium, at least a gram, in your diet. … What happens is the calcium meets up with the fat and it forms soap. That soap gets pushed through your bowel. So eat more calcium too.


While the average American gets about 250 milligrams of calcium from non-dairy, non-fortified foods a day, they should be getting more like 1,200 milligrams. If you do that, you could get rid of
as much as six and a half pounds of fat a year! Beyond that, calcium is also an important consideration for women as they age—it helps keep bones strong and staves off osteoporosis.
You can get calcium from dairy products, figs, prunes and leafy vegetables, but many people will only be able to get enough from supplements. If you do opt for supplements, take note—an influx of calcium can leave you constipated…unless you take it with magnesium. "Usually we recommend folks take about 1,200 milligrams of calcium and somewhere between 600 and 800 milligrams of magnesium," Dr. Oz says. "The combination actually allows you to be loose enough to go to the bathroom."

• Lycopene—an antioxidant found in tomatoes, especially in the reddest ones—which replenishes skin cells. In addition to protecting skin from sun's burning rays, lycopene can also prevent wrinkles by keeping your elastic skin tissues from losing their tenseness.

Tomato? Tom-ah-to? Just remember to eat plenty of them.

• "Water's great to lose weight. It satisfies your satiety center. You don't get the urge to eat quite as much," he says. "It's got lots of benefits that go beyond its ability to affect your skin, but you don't have to force fluids to get that benefit."

• "Our body is responding to the facts that it gets inside it, and when the liver sees trans fats and saturated fats … it sees inflammation. It doesn't like that, and it gets you jazzed up to respond aggressively," he says. "But when it sees omega-3 fatty acids, it feels calm."
If you don't like to eat fish, Dr. Oz suggests other sources of omega-3 acids—including flaxseeds, eggs, walnuts or plankton.

LIFESTYLE

I am only going to talk briefly about lifestyle. That is a personal choice but I will discuss what I did to make changes. I am a live wire when it comes to stress and as I grow older I find myself stressing over almost everything. It is not a choice completely but partly a physiological reaction. But there are steps you can take to reduce that stress. I get a massage at least once a month (a luxury I could enjoy in India), get some personal grooming done for myself- I make no attempts to look attractive for others but I do like a cheerful face staring back at me from the mirror. I try and smile more and spread joy and cheer. Of course some of my friends call me a control freak but I like organizing get-togethers or events especially with my girlfriends. There is a 100% guarantee that when you are around cheerful, non judgmental and happy people you will also be happy. I hear pets have that same effect on people. And if you are happy your health will be too. Music is a great healer and so is communication. That is why Facebook and Twitter work. Pent up emotions or ideas are never healthy, it helps to talk it out. Speak to friends, relatives or anyone you can reach out to. People are happy to share their lives and discover a little about each other and also vice versa. If you can give then give joy – no one cares about misery. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff – Like I said before I have a 30 year plan – if god gave me 30 more years to live then how do I want to live it? A constant reminder to myself of that helps me move away from unhealthy situations.

The power is live your life fully is in your hands. As a first step to your lifestyle write down what you have eaten in the last week and how much exercise have you incorporated in your life and revaluate? Inner re-engineering - a mantra to the success of your emotional and physical being. Wow I better stop before I sound like a guru. I want to listen to more success stores. Tell me yours? What works for you? I believe that all my efforts have given me success in my battle with high cholesterol. It works only because I believe, do you?

PS: 25 Top Heart-Healthy Foods

Flaxseed (ground)
Omega-3 fatty acids; fiber, phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseed hides easily in all sorts of foods -- yogurt parfaits, morning cereal, homemade muffins, or cookies.
Oatmeal
Omega-3 fatty acids; magnesium; potassium; folate; niacin; calcium; soluble fiber.
Top hot oatmeal with fresh berries. Oatmeal-and-raisin cookies are a hearty treat.
Black or Kidney Beans
B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate; magnesium; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; soluble fiber.
Give soup or salad a nutrient boost -- stir in some beans.
Almonds
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Mix a few almonds (and berries) into low-fat yogurt, trail mix, or fruit salads.
Walnuts
Plant omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin E; magnesium; folate; fiber; heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats; phytosterols. Walnuts add flavorful crunch to salads, pastas, cookies, muffins, even pancakes.
Red wine
Catechins and reservatrol (flavonoids).
Toast your good health! A glass of red wine could improve "good" HDL cholesterol.
Tofu
Niacin; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium.
Tasty tofu is easy: Thinly slice "firm" tofu, marinate several hours, grill or stir-fry.
Brown rice
B-complex vitamins; fiber; niacin; magnesium, fiber.
Microwavable brown rice makes a quick lunch. Stir in a few chopped veggies (broccoli, carrots, spinach).
Soy milk
Isoflavones (a flavonoid); B-complex vitamins; niacin; folate, calcium; magnesium; potassium; phytoestrogens.
Soy milk is great over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. Or, make a smoothie with soy milk.
Blueberries
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); anthocyanin (a flavonoid); ellagic acid (a polyphenol); vitamin C; folate; calcium, magnesium; potassium; fiber. Cranberries, strawberries, raspberries are potent, too -- for trail mixes, muffins, salads!
Carrots
Alpha-carotene (a carotenoid); fiber. Baby carrots are sweet for lunch. Sneak shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce or muffin batter.
Spinach
Lutein (a carotenoid); B-complex vitamins; folate; magnesium; potassium; calcium; fiber.
Pick spinach (not lettuce) for nutrient-packed salads and sandwiches.
Broccoli
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); Vitamins C and E; potassium; folate; calcium; fiber.
Chop fresh broccoli into store-bought soup. For a veggie dip, try hummus (chickpeas).
Sweet potato
Beta-carotene (a carotenoid); vitamins A, C, E; fiber.
Microwave in a zip-lock baggie for lunch. Eat au naturale, or with pineapple bits.
Red bell peppers
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
Rub with olive oil, and grill or oven-roast until tender. Delicious in wraps, salads, sandwiches.
Asparagus
Beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex vitamins; folate; fiber.
Grill or steam slightly, then dress with olive oil and lemon. It's a pretty side dish.
Oranges
Beta-cryptoxanthin, beta- and alpha-carotene, lutein (carotenoids) and flavones (flavonoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber. Got orange juice? Check out the new nutrient-packed blends.
Tomatoes
Beta- and alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein (carotenoids); vitamin C; potassium; folate; fiber.
For a flavor twist, try oil-packed tomatoes in sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas.
Cantaloupe
Alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein (carotenoids); B-complex and C vitamins; folate; potassium; fiber.
A fragrant ripe cantaloupe is perfect for breakfast, lunch, potluck dinners. Simply cut and enjoy!
Papaya
Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein (carotenoids); Vitamins C and E; folate; calcium; magnesium; potassium. Serve papaya salsa with salmon: Mix papaya, pineapple, scallions, garlic, fresh lime juice, salt and black pepper.
Dark chocolate
Reservatrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids). A truffle a day lowers blood pressure, but choose 70% or higher cocoa content.
Tea
Catechins and flavonols (flavonoids). Make sun tea: Combine a clear glass jar, several tea bags, and hours of sunshine.

7 comments:

  1. Long, yes. I read the whole thing appreciating how much energy and time you have spent these few years understanding your body. Fantastic and Great Work. I have to admit, that I have a healthy lifestyle practice with food, mind and body. I attribute this as well to my lifestyle since childhood (all credits to my mother), which continued into adulthood and even now which I pass on to my spouse and child. Thank you sima for sharing a very personal journey of your health to the masses, I am sure its going to help many with gain focus and motivation to help them through the ailments. Once again, Congratulations!

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  2. So inspiring and about the power of the mind. Determination+intelligence+being tuned to your body and yourself...Very useful tips.

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  3. wow! so informative and enjoyable to read!!! kudos to you and your determination.

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  4. Very informative blog. I've gone through a very simliar experience. Post pregnancy put on nearly 12kgs and am back to my normal weight thanks to WiiFit. Like you, I too vouch for the fact that it works and also is a fun way to lose weight! Thanks for all the info on cholesterol.

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  5. Thanks for all your comments. I think if you love who are and think you are worth it then it will happen. It is amazing how careless we are with our own bodies. The other day I was at a party and refused an alcoholic drink as I was on some medication. A person at the party says- Oh I drink even when I am on antibiotics- Helloo!! Bad idea, it only harms you!!! I think we need to be responsible towards ourselves. Even in a plane when airlines ask you to wear oxygen masks in case of emergency they ask you to wear the mask first then help someone else. You cannot help others if you cannot help yourself. Good luck all of you and happy health!!

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  6. Can't believe how much time you have spent penning this down! Awesome!

    I don't like to believe in Ayurvedic and natrual stuff blindly but when it comes from someone who has done the research and has a open way of thinking, it's a different thing!

    Sachin

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  7. Recently, my badminton coach's older brother who was all of 40 years of age died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a healthy young man and being a coach himself was extremely active, still one day all of a sudden he dies. What we eat and our genetic make up has a huge impact on our health. In my battle with Cholesterol with huge changes in my diet I got my cholesterol down considerably but not my triglycerides. These are little fatty things found in your blood and not your best friend if they are over a level of 150mg/dl. Mine is around 235 so not good. Good news is that with my diet and exercise plan I brought it down from 345 to 235 which is great but not enough. So the topic here is about how to reduce Triglycerides.

    Anything that increases blood glucose will potentially increase triglycerides, so you should lower your intake of anything that is converted to glucose in the body. The most important step to take is to lower your carbohydrate intake.Cutting down on bad carbs is the best way to reduce Triglycerides.

    What are the bad carbs:
    • Sodas,
    • Candies,
    • All pastries,
    • Jams and jellies,
    • Fruit juices and drinks,
    • Refined grains, like white rice,
    • Bread and pasta with refined flour,
    • Most pudding, custards and other sweets,
    • Cakes, cookies and any sweet bakery products.
    Bad carbs are high glycemic foods and the sugars are absorbed rapidly, causing high and low blood sugar swings. But low glycemic healthy carbohydrates are absorbed slowly and help stabilize blood sugar.

    The best sources for healthy carbohydrates are found in:
    • Raw and lightly steamed vegetables,
    • Legumes, beans, nuts and seeds,
    • High fiber 100% whole grains,
    • Raw, whole, fresh fruits,
    • Most low fat dairy.

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