Maintaining optimal health is the result of several factors. Some of these factors like genetics and age are beyond the control of the individual. But, others, such as healthy nutrition and getting adequate exercise, can help prevent the onset of several health conditions and help resolve them if they arise.
A proper diet complemented by adequate exercise boosts the immune system, which is responsible for fighting disease. It also helps people get better sleep and maintain a healthy weight. Eating wrongly and maintaining a sedentary routine can weaken your health.
Individuals have different nutritional and exercise needs. Generally, a healthy diet consists of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, legumes, protein, and sufficient amounts of water.
General exercises such as running, walking, swimming, or stretching may help treat several conditions. The intensity and duration of the exercises depend on the condition and the individual involved. Individuals should make appropriate adjustments to the exercise regimen as symptoms change.
A proper diet and exercise can help treat the following conditions:
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a condition where narrow blood vessels make it difficult for the heart to pump sufficient blood to meet the body’s demands. Persistently elevated blood pressure above the normal 120/80mmHg might lead to a high blood pressure diagnosis.
High blood pressure usually presents no symptoms till blood pressure rises to about 180/120mmHg, a dangerous situation known as hypertensive crisis. The symptoms that manifest at this stage include heart palpitations, headaches, shortness of breath, blurred vision, and dizziness.
Most high blood pressure cases can’t be traced to a single cause (essential hypertension). Certain risk factors like age, genes, thyroid disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of the condition.
Treatment of high blood pressure involves beta-blockers, diuretics, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.
Doctors also recommend a plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, oils, and reduced salt consumption. At least 150 minutes of exercise weekly will also help alleviate symptoms of high blood pressure. Patients should seek their doctor’s approval before starting an exercise regimen.
High cholesterol is another condition that proper nutrition and exercise can help treat. Cholesterol is a lipid in the blood responsible for forming vitamin D, hormones, and cell membranes. Lipoproteins are protein and fat substances that transport cholesterol throughout the blood. There are two types of lipoproteins – high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
High cholesterol is the condition that results when there are more than normal levels of LDL cholesterol. This causes the buildup of cholesterol on arterial walls (cholesterol plaque). The plaque makes arterial space smaller and can trigger problems like stroke, angina, peripheral vascular disease, and heart attack.
High levels of cholesterol have no symptoms, so a regular blood cholesterol check is essential. Treatment of high cholesterol involves statins, niacin, cholesterol synthesis inhibitors, and bile acid resins.
Dietary control involves avoiding cholesterol-rich foods like red meat, egg yolk, deep-fries, high-fat dairy products, junk food, and processed oils. Foods that help treat high cholesterol include omega-3 fatty acid-containing foods, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources like legumes, fish, and chicken.
At least 30 minutes of exercise weekly under a doctor’s supervision also help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Obesity is a term that describes the chronic condition of having a higher than healthy weight. Obesity is determined by measuring the body mass index (BMI). An individual with a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.
Consumption of more calories than utilized over time leads to obesity. Other factors like genes, age, pregnancy, drug use, and not getting enough sleep can lead to obesity. Some conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, depression, and osteoarthritis may also cause obesity.
Obesity has been linked to complications like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, infertility, gallbladder disease, and certain cancers.
Treatment of obesity involves strict lifestyle changes that include a healthy food plan and a structured exercise regimen. Obese patients may need to work with a dietitian and therapist to develop an individualized eating plan to help with their condition.
The exercise regimen to treat obesity should be up to 300 minutes weekly to develop muscle strength, endurance and improve metabolism. Medications and surgical procedures may also be part of some obesity treatment plans.
Proper nutrition and exercise also find use in treating depression and other mental health conditions. Depression is typically marked by low mood and sudden disinterest in activities that were once pleasurable. Other symptoms of depression include anxiety, irritability, weakness, and thoughts of suicide.
It isn’t clear what causes depression, but risk factors include genetics, environment, psychological state, alterations in brain neurotransmitter levels, and traumatic events. Treatment of depression involves drugs, psychotherapy, and other supportive therapies.
There are also innovative new ways of therapy and support that involve the use of compounds like psilocybin found in the famed ‘magic mushrooms’ (see them on this website). They are believed to have profound effects on a person’s brain chemistry, promoting wellness and healing. To what extent this therapy can work is yet to be seen.
Consumption of sugary or processed foods has been linked to depression and related mental health conditions. Studies also show that fruits, vegetables, fish, and olive oil reduce depression symptoms.
Exercise promotes the release of endorphins, chemical messengers in the brain that improve mood. Half an hour of physical activity five times a week can significantly reduce depression symptoms.
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones and makes them prone to fracture. It’s common in older women but also affects men and young individuals. People with severe osteoporosis may suffer fractures to their ribs, hips, spine, and wrists while doing something normal like walking or standing.
Osteoporosis is a silent condition, and most people don’t know they have it till they experience their first fracture. It’s unknown what causes the disease, but it has been linked to an overactive thyroid and long-term use of corticosteroids. Treatment for osteoporosis includes medications and hormone therapy.
A proper diet is required for bone health. Foods containing nutrients, especially calcium and vitamin D, form a large part of an osteoporosis diet. Other nutrients include vitamin K, zinc, magnesium, and protein. A nutritionist will work with the patient to devise a personal eating plan.
Exercises designed to help the body form new bone tissue also help treat osteoporosis. Pushups, squats, climbing stairs, and leg presses cause the muscles to push against the bones triggering new tissue production. Osteoporosis patients must seek medical approval before commencing any exercise regimen.
Our environment often inhibits people from making healthier choices. Physical inability and unhealthy diets remain the leading cause of most non-communicable diseases (NCDs), contributing significantly to the global disease burden.
From what we mentioned, you can manage many health conditions simply by eating healthy meals and adequately exercising. We can’t deny the health benefits that come with eating nutritious diets. Thus, incorporating a healthy lifestyle will significantly reduce your risk of having severe, life-threatening medical conditions. Why don’t you give it a try?