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M. P. Ravindra Nathan


Editor's Note: This series is designed to give you heads up on healthy living and graceful aging.

Now that we have covered all the principles about healthy dieting and you are making healthy food choices, we can turn our attention to the next step in your quest for longevity - exercise. There is a lot to talk about, like why, what kind and how much, etc. You have already received some great advice on this from Khaas Baat's "fitness guru." Consider this column as complementary to his suggestions.

Why do we have to exercise?

Here is a look at some of the beneficial effects.

1. Regular physical activity is enormously helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes, especially in women. It increases the blood flow through the coronary arteries, may help to open up new collateral channels in the heart, boosts "good" HDL cholesterol, lowers "bad" LDLs, and protects the inner layer of blood vessel walls, called the endothelium, from getting stiff. Endothelial dysfunction - when blood vessel linings no longer widen to accommodate increased blood flow - sets the stage for atherosclerosis.

2. Increases your endurance and stamina. This means you not only feel good about yourself but you also can do your day job quite efficiently.

3. Exercise staves off age-related brain changes. Regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and even creates new blood vessels in the brain. These help to prevent that natural cognitive decline in the elderly.

4. You burn calories that will reduce the unnecessary fat on your body, especially the belly fat (so-called 'killer bellies'!) and lose the extra pounds you have put on lately. We are now facing an obesity epidemic in USA.

5. Your lung capacity improves. Those who have chronic lung ailments such as asthma and emphysema can benefit from a regular, supervised exercise program specially tailored for their health status. Our patients who participate in the pulmonary rehab program feel much better after a few sessions.

6. Increases your cardiac fitness and capacity. With good physical conditioning, heart rate slows down and BP gets normalized, both helping the heart by reducing its oxygen requirements and making it more efficient.

7. Exercise also has some independent effects. According Jo Ann Mason, chief of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's hospital, exercise regulates the hormone levels in the body and tempers down bodily inflammation. And inflammation, as you well know, is the basis of many diseases, implicated in coronary atherosclerosis also. Diabetics who exercise regularly can control their blood sugars with less medicine or sometimes none at all. Another interesting news is regular exercise, even 15 minutes of daily walk, can curb those bad habits such as smoking, excessive drinking and craving for chocolates. Even those who suffer from fibromyalgia and depression are benefited by low level exercise.

Several studies have shown that people, especially women, with higher resting heart rates seem to have a higher risk for coronary events. "After adjusting for other risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, women with the highest heart rates (greater than 76 beats/minute), were more likely to suffer coronary events such as a heart attack than women with the lowest resting pulse rates (62 beats per minute or less)." These investigators also said that "the relationship between resting heart rate and coronary risk was stronger in postmenopausal women who were 50-64 years old at the start of the study than those who were 65-79."

Physically-fit people such as athletes have a slow resting heart rate. The great tennis ace Bjorn Borg reputedly had a resting heart rate of 36 beats/minute when he was winning Wimbledon titles. While doing animal experiments during my training at N J College of Medicine - the study involved producing experimental heart attacks in dogs - my colleagues and I had reported that dogs with higher resting heart rates tended to fare worse than others during recovery, after the heart attack.

In a recently study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers discovered that "adults who kept themselves active during their leisure time were biologically younger than sedentary folks." The study measured biological age by focusing on white blood cell telomeres, chromosomal structures in the body that progressively shorten over time. Working with DNA samples from 2401 volunteers, researchers found that "those who exercised an average of 199 minutes weekly had telomeres about the same length as those of sedentary people up to 10 years younger. The high levels of oxidative stress, inflammation and mental stress that accompany a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to shortened telomere length."

Kate Hudson, the energetic vivacious movie star, doting mother and the force behind a successful hair-product line, recently featured on the cover of Parade's Healthy Style Magazine, says, "Moving your body is the key to any happy lifestyle. Exercise gives you more energy. "

Now you know why exercise is considered the best preventive medicine.

(To be continued)

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



Aging is the process of growth. It is our living cycle; we are born; we grow; and we die. Yet, we all want to look younger than our age. Looking young is not a new phenomenon in society. It can be tracked to ancient history. Let's focus on today's issue of aging.

There are plenty of cosmetics applications and surgeries available to give you the most beautiful outer look possible. How about the inner look, the look of your organs, arteries, brain cells and muscles? The season premiere of "Biggest Looser" showed each contestant his or her true (inner) age because of their obesity. What is that? The true age is the age that your organs show. The true age is that your metabolism show. The true age is that number of chronic disease shows in your body. The true age show how short you may live.

No one can stop aging. However, we all should age healthy and naturally. Our body is in constant growth from birth to early 20s. Ages from 25 to 35 are the peak of our growth and then the decline begins. Well, we decide the acceleration of our aging after 35 by adapting chronic diseases, constant stress level, less sleep, not enough physical activity, lack of intimacy, and many more reasons.

The maximal oxygen intake is from 25 to 65 years of age with the main reason being constant decrease of habitual physical activity. Ordinary people certainly become more sedentary as they age. So, what if the oxygen intake is declined? Less oxygen leads to a decrease in heart rate. It means the body does not get enough fuel to stay healthy and young. Due to lack of oxygen, the shrinkage of cell, death of cells and increase in chronic disease become part of our life cycle.

Aging leads to a progressive decrease of muscle strength and flexibility. Loss of strength progressively interferes in everyday living such as carrying heavy bags, pushing or pulling big objects, etc. Muscle strength can be greatly improved by resistance exercise training. This also improves performance joints. Healthy muscles create a young proportionate outer look to our body. Regular stretching exercise helps to maintain the elasticity of tendons, ligaments and joints.

Aging leads to weak metabolism and loss of bone mass. The healthiest way to prevent the loss bone mass is proper diet and appropriate exercise before it is too late to perform strength exercise. Exercise is the key to keep the metabolism going. Regular metabolism prevents diabetes and blood pressure.

Diet plays an important role in aging too. Soda, fried food, hybrid food, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine intake increase the chances of chronic disease and make you look older than your actual age. Eating steamed food and raw vegetables will help you observe the necessary mineral that a body needs. Also, eating fresh fruits and nuts keeps your skin looks much softer and shinier. I would always suggest organic food over hybrid food, fresh fruits over preserve fruits, steamed or raw vegetables over fried vegetables. Consume lots of water and fat-free milk over any other types of drinks. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine at all times. Keep in mind. No one can copy your inner beauty!

Achut Mashruwala of Fitness Guru Inc. can be reached at (813) 857-5103 or e-mail

Payal Patel

I get a lot of parents in the office who are proud to say how well their child is learning and focusing because of TV and videogames. Nowadays, kids are plopped in front of a TV even before they can sit up because the caregiver observes that they seem interested in the TV and seem to like it, without realizing the consequences.

Television has a tremendous influence on our kids. It does have positive influence because the kids are smarter and learn a variety of new things, but because of the excessive time spent in front of a TV, computer or playing videogames, it does have a lot of negative affects.

Many children spend more time in front of a TV than in school. Also, these days we don't see a lot of children playing outside or interacting with their peers like before, leading to a lack of communication and social interaction. This also is true for siblings and parents.

Most kids are not reading at grade level nowadays because TV, videogames, etc., are taking away from valuable reading time, which would enhance their vocabulary and thinking capacity. It leads to a decrease in school performance as they are hurried in homework time, and watching TV when they should be going to sleep at an appropriate time.

TV and videogames also lead to a more aggressive behavior because of the numbing effect watching violent cartoons and playing violent videogames has on a child. Because a child is unable to reason the amount or extent of aggression they see, they may think it is normal for them to behave the same way as portrayed on TV, etc.

To prevent such behavior, it is important to encourage other activity. The most important intervention is limiting TV watching and videogame time to 1-2 hours per day depending on the age of the child. A 4- to 5-year-old should have no more than 30 minutes to one hour in front of the TV, while an 8-year-old may watch or play videogames 1-2 hours.

n weekends, you may allow them 30 minutes to an hour more depending on family values and age of the child. Setting a time limit helps your child focus his time elsewhere such as interacting with the family or friends, playing outside, reading, sports, music, etc.

Introducing interest in books early on promotes reading and vocabulary enhancement as they grow up. Parents should read to their child even before they are a year old as valuable time spent together, and to boost interest in books.

TV or videogames should never be used as a distraction or a babysitter because this form of entertainment becomes unsupervised, leading to younger children watching violent or inappropriate shows. TV videogames should never interfere with bedtime. Setting a routine for the child as to when it is a good time to watch shows is a good habit that will last through the years.

A good time is right after school, when they want to relax for an hour before starting their homework. This way it does not interfere with learning, family time at the dinner table, and scheduled bed time.

Talking to your child about what is considered an appropriate show also is important so they realize the reasons mom and dad don't allow certain TV watching. Buy videogames that are age appropriate and do not contain violence.

Also, make sure you set a good example by not watching too much TV yourself or inappropriate shows in front of them. Always enforce that the TV be turned off once their time is over, giving more value to family-based interaction.

Although TV and videogames can teach focus, attention to details, enhance their imagination, etc, excessive and inappropriate TV and videogames has a negative impact on our kids. Therefore, setting and maintaining routines for TV and videogames is important for a child's intellectual development.

Happy holidays and a Happy New Year.

Dr. Payal Patel is a board-certified pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics, 18928 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 102, Lutz. For information, call (813) 948-2679.

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