Most of you would be tired of the tried and tested de-stressing techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep-breathing exercises by now and would be hoping for livelier and ‘happening’ techniques. Even after trying out these techniques people are still stressed, and the stress level is only steadily increasing! There is no hard and fast rule that you need to adhere to only certain techniques that is practiced universally. If some technique works for you but not your friend, go ahead and enjoy its benefits.
Given here are some well-researched ways that have proven to be effective on certain people and you might be one of them:
Watch a swimming fish
Countless homes have a small aquarium tank, but rarely do they observe what’s happening inside it. One journal study has seriously claimed that looking at a fish inside a tank can calm you and induce serenity. Not only that, even looking at a fishless tank with moving seaweed can help you settle your stress levels.
Having a garden inside the house might not be practically possible for everyone. But, one can definitely grow a small houseplant to make your house greener. One study has proved that women felt an uplift in their moods and their stress levels too dropped when they looked at a bunch of fresh rose for just three minutes. Select a small flowering or an ornamental plant of your choice and keep it in your house to feel fresh and energized.
Become a sniff dog
At times of stress try sniffing your spouse’s clothes, chest or even socks. It might sound crazy or even gross, but women do find it relaxing and smoothening to smell their partner, even when they are not physically present. During periods of separation, increased stress levels or high-importance meetings it is always better to carry your spouse’s hanky or socks to smell and de-stress yourself!
Smiling is an evergreen way to decrease your stress levels. Even during times of distress forcing a fake smile would serve you better than totally avoiding a smile. It makes you happier and truly less stressed. If you are that “authentic” person who cannot fake a smile, the best way is to call upon a friend and talk to him/her who can make your lips curl into a bright smile in no time!
Stare at fractals
Modern art has got charm in its own way. Fractals are geometric figures that keep occurring repeatedly, but every time in a smaller scale. Seashells, mountains, snowflakes and clouds are natural fractals and the good thing is that fractals can also be created via art. This explains the soothing power of nature on humans and it serves you good to add some picture of modern art to your phone’s background.
Any animal lover would surely accept that locking eyes with pet can take off his/her stress intensity and burden. Even research proves that human-animal bonding generates oxytocin (the love hormone) and reduces psychological distress. It is not only dog but any animal that can help a person calm down. For instance, one study gave crickets (insect) to elderly population to take care of and the mental health of the study group improved considerably by the end of the study compared to the other group devoid of any pets. If you don’t find yourself in a position to adopt a pet of your own, you can volunteer yourself to work in animal shelters.
Bite on dark chocolate
Studies have proved that eating dark chocolate helps reduce stress levels and blood pressure levels as effective as prescription drugs. Antioxidants (polyphenols) present in these dark chocolates are responsible for these healthful benefits and the darker the chocolate, more the polyphenols it contains. The different opinions surrounding dark chocolate never vanish and for some interesting tit-bits about this mouth-watering delicacy, please visit the website www.firsteatright.com.
Chew & Chew
Apart from preventing bad breaths, we should chew to beat stress too. One journal study proved that people who undertook a stressful task chewing gums felt less stressed than those who performed the task without the gums. Chewing gums contain the stress hormone cortisol and this triggers activity in people and helps them deal with stressful situations in a better way. Researchers feel that it might be due to the increased blood flow to the brain as a result of chewing.
For every physical trait or personality of ours, we have our genes to credit or blame upon. We might be our parents’, grandparents’ or forefathers’ replica or possess traits resembling them, but each of us have something unique to us and only us, and this is personal choice. With sheer willpower and effort, we can overpower most of these traits (except for physical traits and there is no need as well to change one’s physical self just for the sake of beauty!) to become a better person, health-wise and personality-wise, in life.
Scientists made wonderful progress studying the human genome more than a decade ago. This helps us relate genetics to certain diseases and disorders. Subsequent research proved further links between genetics and our increased risk of health problems such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, breast cancer, depression and obesity too! Many over-smart individuals now use this theory to mint unethical money by luring people to take up genetic tests for obesity. These individuals overcharge common man for the test and come up with fancy terms and high-profile words to provide justification for the high cost. But finally, the solution provided by them is the same-work out, eat smart and live healthy. What is the need for genetic testing in this case? Genes do play a role, but we have a long way to go before we can provide substantial solutions to obesity problems using gene knowledge. At the same time, Angelina Jolie took a bold decision of getting her ovaries removed and saving herself from ovarian cancer (unlike her mom who succumbed to death at the age of 56) after witnessing more than a couple of her family members die due to cancer. Genes have indeed saved Angelina Jolie her precious life! There is a gene named after her, ‘The Angelina Jolie Gene’, information about which is available at www.firsteatright.com.
On the brighter note, it is becoming more and more clear that genetics is only 50% of the cause for various ailments and it is our lifestyle that plays the hero role in reducing our risks of various diseases. We can never rewrite our genotype, but it is always possible to alter our phenotype. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression that don’t involve any changes to the underlying DNA sequence. Ongoing research is favorable to human species as we are finding that epigenetic changes are affected by our lifestyle choices, food habits, chemicals that we are exposed to and even our social environments. All these can modify our health at the level of the gene.
Inherited Heart Disease
Different types of heart disease can be passed down through families. Some are caused just by one or two genetic changes that have a powerful effect in causing the disease. But mostly, it is the result of multiple gene changes that result in coronary artery disease. Greater the number of gene variants, higher is your risk of disease as every variant increases your risk by 10%.
Exercise Vs Genetics
New research proposes that exercise, specifically cardio fitness, can outweigh genetics in affecting the risk of heart disease irrespective of the risk potential.
The study included almost a half-million participants who were between 40 and 69 years old from 2006-2010. Researchers followed up on individuals who did not show any signs of heart disease for about a decade tracking their activities and exercise patterns. They investigated the genetic profile of those participants who were at the greatest risk of heart disease and atrial fibrillation. These participants were put on a rigorous cardiorespiratory fitness routine that decreased their risk of coronary heart disease by 49% and AFib risk by 60%. This proves three important facts:
Save Your Gene
The fact that lifestyle affects genes to a great extent is good or bad depending on how we process this information. Those blessed with a genetic advantage against heart disease risk can revoke all these benefits by pursuing an unhealthy lifestyle. At the same time, genetics can even demotivate the most physically fit person when results show that the person is at the greatest risk of heart disease due to genetics. It can make the person feel doomed, negative and helpless. He/she completely forgets about his/her fitness level and focuses only on the gene results right then. This can cause stress, anxiety and ultimately raise blood pressure which is a major cause for heart disease.
We sometimes complicate our simple lives by introducing unwanted elements into it. Understanding that genes depend on our activities and reminding that we don’t rely on genes for survival is the basis for a stress-free and healthy life. Family history is definitely a primary factor to consider but we can overpower it with significant lifestyle modifications. We live in such a modern world that individuals can actually get to know their risk status which is both a blessing and a curse. It solely depends on us to raise our blessings by taking appropriate actions to move forward in life (in terms of health), decrease our curse by using the results in a positive way to become better and stay balanced between both.
Our Biology lessons on genes, inheritance and heredity always start with Drosophila Melanogaster or the common ‘fruit fly’. Its more than a century and the Drosophila continues to occupy a key role in science research in the areas of genetics, enlighten various aspects of human health and diseases. With tremendous scientific advancements, it keeps a person wondering what is extra-special about the fruit fly that encourages scientists to repeatedly use them despite profound development in research tools.
Are We Biased in Choosing the Drosophila for Research?
Using humans for research is terrorizing and next to impossible due to multitudinous ethical and practical issues. To satisfy the requirements of a study, a good model organism should comply with similar functions and pathways with humans on a molecular level. We use model organisms such as mice and fruit fly to study about cell functioning and genetics. Although agreeable that humans and fruit flies are dissimilar organisms, it is also surprising that the biological pathways and mechanisms overlap between these species. The well-known journal Science listed the genome sequence of Drosophila which in comparison to the human genome shows these key facts that make this insect a model specimen in science labs:
The similarity between the genome structures of humans and drosophila are critical for using the fruit fly to better understand human behavior, development and genetic diseases. The different human conditions and behaviors for which Drosophila has been used might surprise and fascinate any human. Genes nowadays are used to predict a person’s weight loss/gain ratio, but this still remains a field to be further explored and analyzed before coming into definitive conclusion. Read more on nutrigenetics/nutrigenomics and the impact of genes on health and weight from the website www.firsteatright.com.
Currently under study are genes linked to neurological diseases, cancer, hypoxic response, infectious diseases, etc. The fruit fly is emerging to be a critical research element in the clinical drug discovery process and is a potential model for wound healing. In the bioengineering domain, Drosophila embryos are utilized to test the safety of bioengineering technologies. New therapies to treat heart diseases will be a reality in the near future for which the research is already underway. All these together make Drosophila the numero uno choice of scientists for research purpose.
Crash diets crush your health and leave you with debilitating side effects. There were certain articles and news on crash diets even on reputed newspapers worldwide quoting that ‘crash diets DO work’ or ‘crash diets are not so bad after all!’ but these claims are untrue and one must take caution.
Weight loss is on top of the agenda list constantly for many people and they are ready to do anything to fulfill their wish. By anything, I mean it literally-from very low-calorie diets (crash diets), eating pills as meals, consuming meal replacement shakes or powders to getting themselves operated to get rid of excess body fat or starving to death! All of us would like to walk down the ramp with beautiful attires, don’t we? A healthy body weight is not the goal but a ‘glam’ body (for females) or a muscular physique (for males) that fascinates people around and make them long for such a figure is the dream of many individuals today.
Meal replacement programs or popularly known to the world as ‘crash diets’ are those that contain very low-calorie content of not more than 600 or 800 kcal per day pursued predominantly for weight loss, diabetes control and controlled blood pressure numbers. Such programs are vehemently followed and growing to be increasingly popular among individuals since the last couple of years. Americans spend billions of dollars, almost $66 billion to be precise, on weight loss products which is not surprising as more than 70% of adults living in the United States are overweight/obese (according to NIH). Two-third of Britons are on a diet most times and Indians are getting fatter by the day, almost between 8 and 38% of rural Indians as well as between 13 and 50% of urban Indians suffer from obesity. The status of people in other parts of the world are not any better with every country at the brink of obesity and the world succumbing to an obesity epidemic! Such desperation and inability to curb weight gain forces people to take up quicker alternatives to weight loss ignorant (or either unconcerned) of the resulting consequences.
If you are aware, any man requires around 2500kCal per day to maintain his weight on a healthy, balanced diet and a woman requires around 2000kCal every day and these values can vary depending on the person’s age, weight, lifestyle and metabolism predominantly. Comparing the calorie intake involved in crash diets with a normal diet shows stark differences which nonetheless indicates the grueling truth of crash diets on our health and fitness.
Effect on Heart Health
Crash diets are supposedly helpful in losing weight or maintaining blood sugar levels but what about their effect on heart health? Research scientists have already given clear warnings about the disastrous effects of crash diets which include weakened immune system, slowing down of metabolism and increased risk of dehydration and arrhythmia. The latest impact of these unhealthy diet forms is on our heart-the crux of our life!
The research that focused specifically on heart health risks due to crash diets used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the effects of a very low-calorie diet on human heart and the distribution of fat in the abdomen, liver and heart muscle. The study included 21 obese individuals around the average age of 52 of which 6 of them were men. All of them had an average body mass index (BMI) of 37 (way above the obesity demarcation!) and were made to consume a diet that had a calorie value between 600 and 800kCal per day for eight weeks. When an MRI was taken after one week of consuming this crash diet, total body fat, visceral fat and liver fat decreased by 6%, 11% and 42% respectively. There was significant improvement in fasting total cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin resistance, glucose and blood pressure. Please don’t feel overjoyed by reading this as after the same one-week time, heart fat content had risen by 44%. Worse, heart functioning deteriorated and the heart’s prime job of pumping blood was affected badly. At the same time, at the end of the eighth week, heart fat content and functioning improved compared to what existed before the participants started following the diet and so were improvements in body fat and cholesterol measurements visible. The surprise element here is that, risk factors of heart disease such as liver fat and diabetes levels were controlled which is a strong indication to show improved heart functioning, yet heart function worsened in the initial week before starting to show improvements. Researchers quote that staggering calorie decline elevates fat release from different parts of the body into the blood and this could have been taken up by the heart muscle. Once the body became accustomed to the decreased calorie restrictions, heart functioning returned to its normalcy. Even though very low-calorie diets are rarely (rarest of the rare) suggested by physicians to combat obesity problems in people suffering from morbid obesity, a more sustained diet is what actually is fruitful in the long run.
Even if you consider such a dip in heart functioning to be normal in the case of heart-healthy citizens, what about people with heart problems who take up crash diets? The results would be worsening-it might aggravate breathlessness or increase risk of arrhythmias, symptoms of heart failure. With such dangers lurking around a very low-calorie diet, what is the need of taking up these for the sake of a healthy body? Something that we pursue for the sake of health must only help to elevate fitness and in no way must try to bring it down, even by a minimum percentage.
Any Kind of Diet Comes with Its Set of Disadvantages
Crash diets might seem the perfect choice for losing a few pounds/kilograms before your graduation ceremony, meetup with childhood friends or your wedding day. But, these lost pounds/kilograms don’t even stay off long enough for you to enjoy the pleasure of it and bounce back in a jiffy. Comparatively, gradual weight loss works better on the body resulting in much-sustained long-term weight reduction and less weight gain compared to rapid weight loss using a very-low calorie diet.
Don’t replace your lunch with a protein shake, never go for supplements/super foods that promise to help you lose staggering weight numbers in a week or two, avoid skipping meals or avoiding a food group entirely, don’t cut off your intake of animal proteins completely and finally, don’t give up on your healthy weight loss approach over some crash diet. Always remember that there is no short cut to success. Effectively lose weight by practicing a disciplined dietary routine with regular physical activity and a stress-free living. Balance your macronutrient intake, eat the required quantities of healthy fats and get your needed dairy to stay fit and strong. Get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com to lose weight in the right way by sticking to correct portions of the required nutrients.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.