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Secrets to Healthy Living

Do you know what the different foods you ingest perform in your body? Did you know that for every 2 hours we are awake, we need to sleep for an hour?

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH
JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

Secrets to Healthy Living: Part 1

We all keep wondering how to be fit and healthy? What does it even mean to be healthy?

Worry no more because we will highlight some important elements of healthy living. By the time you finish reading, you will appreciate the different kinds of food and their nutritive values, the importance of exercise and develop a new interest in sleep.

W.H.O defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being of a person and not merely the absence of diseases. In other words, a healthy person is not only one who has no infirmities but a person with a sound mind.

The first and basic aspect of a healthy life is good nutrition. Nutrition is the process by which living organisms obtain food, hence, good nutrition will imply that organisms are able to obtain good food. Why do you even eat? I am certain your first thought and the answer was because you become hungry. Have you heard the saying that “a hungry man is an angry man”? This is because all living organisms need food as a source of energy to carry out life processes such as moving, talking, even breathing and beating of the heart. Hence, in the absence of food which is a basic necessity, our body and hormones rage against us and our surroundings. We do not only eat to satisfy our hunger, but we also eat because our body needs some essential substances found in food called food nutrients : carbohydrates,  proteins, fats and oils, vitamins, minerals to grow and survive.

Nutritious foods aside from making you look healthy, help you to carry out your activities smoothly. This means that it is essential to know which food does what work in the body so that you can eat the right kinds of foods to stay healthy.

There are basically 3 groups of food depending on the composition and function in the body namely ;

1. Body-building foods.

2. Energy giving foods.

3. Protective foods.

Body-building foods are the protein we find in various foods sources. Animal sources of such foods include eggs, meat, milk, cheese, fish,  and plant food sources consists of the pulses(beans of all kind, such as Bambara beans, peas, soybeans, etc. others are groundnuts, cashew nuts, melon seeds(agushie)mushroom, dawadawa, wrewre, etc.). As the name suggests, Body-building foods are vital to build and repair body tissue. They are primarily responsible for the growth of your muscles, the hair on your head, the formation of nails and the growth of skin, etc. They can also fight viral and bacterial infections because the immune system powerhouses such as antibodies, and immune system cells rely on protein for their formation. Too little protein in the diet may lead to symptoms of weakness, fatigue, apathy, and poor immunity. People who require protein most include babies, toddlers, pregnant women, lactating mothers, adolescents and people recovering from sicknesses (these people have their body undergoing tissue differentiation, growth and repair). For instance, a lack of protein in pregnant women can lead to poor development of a fetus.

The second group of food is the energy giving food. These are obtained from the carbohydrates and fats and oils we ingest. Fats and oils are not as hazardous as some people believe, because some vitamins dissolve in the fats to travel to various body tissues. Of course, too much of everything is bad, so they have to be taken in moderation. We get fats and oils by ingesting foods such as fatty meat, oily fish, cheese, palm oil, margarine, avocado pear, soybean oil, etc. The carbohydrate aspect of the energy-giving foods contains the cereals, and grains: such as maize, millets, oats, sorghum, rice, and starchy roots: such as yam, cocoyam, sweet potatoes and plantain. The lack of carbohydrate in a diet is uncommon in Ghana, since, there is much of it in most of our staple foods. However, too much of it may cause obesity. Moderation should be done on the amount of energy-giving food you consume based on the nature of your work else, you will be building fats and adipose tissues that have lethal complications. A high manual worker is expected to consume a high-calorie diet than a light menial worker.

They provide us with energy to go about our activities. So the next time you're low on energy, you know the kind of food to go for.

Last but not least is the protective foods. As the name suggests, they protect the body against diseases and infections and keep the immune system strong. These are obtained from the vitamins, and minerals which are found in various fruits and vegetables. Most fruits contain dietary fibre which aids in digestion and prevents constipation. Thus, the next time, you are finding it difficult to free your bowels, just purchase some of these fruits such as apples, bananas, mangoes.

Generally, vitamins act as a catalyst for the activities of the immune system and enzymatic activities that build the body in the prevention of diseases. Minerals on the other hand, as minute as they are needed, are necessary for the various enzymatic processes that happen in the body in the growing process. Deficiency in some food types under these, for instance, folic acid, in a pregnant mother could lead to problems with neural development of the unborn child, thus, pregnant women are placed on a daily folic acid intake to develop the brain of the child.

Water

Water is sometimes considered the sixth nutrient because it is vital to life. Two-thirds of the human body weight is made up of water. Water is priceless to our body. Water regulates the body temperature, aid in the digestion process, aid in the excretion and elimination of waste from the kidney and dissolved nutrients in the body. Water has the ability to calm the nerves (the soothing feeling when you drink water after a tense event). Intake of water affects every aspect of our living, therefore, as they say, “Water is life”

It is essential to have a combination of all these food nutrients, and food groups to obtain a balanced diet. Note that it is not compulsory to have all these combinations at a sitting instead, what we ingest throughout a day must be balanced. Below are some examples of balanced diets.

We eat first with our eyes so make your meals as appetizing as you can.

Exercise

The second important aspect of healthy living is exercise. We all know that exercise is good but what really happens when you exercise?

When you exercise, the heat produced by your muscles increase your body temperature and makes you feel warmer. Your heart starts to beat faster pumping blood to the muscles you are using. Note that, your heart is also a muscle so if you exercise regularly, it becomes bigger and stronger, thus strengthening your heart. Because your muscles are working harder, they need more oxygen. You start to breathe faster so your heart starts to pick more oxygen from your lungs. Your lungs work harder to make this happen. Once there is enough oxygen in your blood, it is sent to the specified muscle you're using. If you continue exercising regularly, new capillaries are formed and this makes the type of exercise you do seem easier with time. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in the blood which helps lower your risk of heart diseases such as high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure. The physical benefits of exercise make you look better, gain muscle, lose weight, become leaner and generally become fit.

Exercise is wonderful for people with type II diabetes who have more glucose in their bloodstream regardless of the presence of insulin (their insulin levels are normal but the cells are desensitized to respond to increased glucose levels). Exercise increases sensitization of the cells to respond to the insulin released in order to regulate blood sugar level. It helps them to use the excess glucose and also make use of the insulin present.

Regular physical activity also helps with memory retention and attention because the part of the brain-hippocampus responsible for cognition gets bigger over time. Exercise also has some mental benefits. Moreover, exercise helps with metabolic activities and aids with weight loss.

Do you ever wonder what happens internally while you exercise?

During exercise, hormones such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are released. These help you to lift your mood pushes you to do more and makes you energetic even after the exercise. Any physical activity which involves moving any part of your body is good for your body. Remember, some activity is better than none. Start where you are, do what you can and keep going. Exercise makes you happier, less depressed and more motivated.

The CDC recommends that adults should engage in 150 minutes weekly of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity,” such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of “vigorous-intensity aerobic activity” like running. In addition to this aerobic activity, people should do muscle strengthening exercises twice a week to work all the major muscle groups.

However, you can start by just deciding to walk around your house, gardening, or even dancing to your favourite music. You do not have to be perfect, you need to get started.

Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any concerns about your fitness, haven't exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.

Sleep

It has been acknowledged that, if we sleep for 8 hours a day, by age 75 using simple calculation, we would have spent an average of 25 years of our lives sleeping. That's a fortune of time spent sleeping. Due to this, some people decide to spend less time sleeping because they can't bring themselves to waste 25 years of their lives sleeping which could have been used for something productive. In fact, when we sleep, most of our senses are shut off completely like our sense of sight, smell and hearing which makes us vulnerable and is quite dangerous. That's why we all want to find a safe place to sleep even when it comes to animals. So why is sleep so important? As one sleep scientist said, “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.

Why do they say that sleep is as equally important as eating a healthy diet and exercising?

The importance of sleep

Good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. It is without a doubt that sleep helps with concentration and focus. Sleep reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose. Sleep further regulates our appetite, helping control body weight through healthy food selection rather than rash impulsivity. Adequate sleep is intimately tied to the fitness of our cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure while keeping our hearts in fine condition.

But is that all there is to sleep? No, not at all.

During sleep, human growth hormone is released from your brain. It helps your body to grow, repair damages incurred during the day, and build your muscle. This is very important because the nutrients we derive from foods are put to work. One of the most important reasons for sleep is its role in learning and memory. As we go about our day's activities, we pick up a lot of information. But during sleep, that is when the memories are safely stored or saved just like when we type something using Microsoft Word. Being able to save or store information smoothly makes it easier to retrieve it. A lack of sleep will suggest that the brain is unable to make new memories. That is why sleep is important for memory formation.

Furthermore, people who do not have a good night sleep tend to accumulate a protein which is associated with diseases such as Alzheimer, etc. At night, when we sleep, our brain undergoes its sewage system by removing a toxic protein called beta-amyloi . So if you're not getting enough sleep, the more Alzheimers-proteins are left in the brain. The more protein that builds up, the more your risk of developing dementia later in life which is associated with Alzheimer. Sleep deprivation has also been found to affect the reproductive system. Men who sleep 4-5 hours a day have been found to have a level of testosterone which is 10 years ahead of their age. So for instance, if you're 30 years old, and you sleep 4-5 hours a day, you're likely to have the hormone testosterone of a 40-year-old.  These people tend to have a reduction in their natural killer cells which is paramount in fighting cancers, thus, increasing your risk of various forms of cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer and bowel cancer.

How much sleep does a person need?

Actually, the amount of sleep; you need changes throughout your life. It is dependent on your age and the amount of energy you give off. So for instance babies need 16 hours of sleep, adolescents require 9 hours of sleep while adults need 8 hours of sleep daily. Remember the importance of sleep the next time you decide to cheat sleep. A study by Matthew Walker, the author of “why we sleep” discovered that, after 16 hours of wakefulness, adults can no longer go about their normal duties with a sound mind. Their state of mind is like a drunk person behind a wheel of a car. We can go about days without eating, drinking water and even exercising and be okay. But even 24 hours continuous lack of sleep may cause us to lose focus, concentration and become mentally and physically weak.

A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the supreme force in this health trinity. What shall it profit a man if he gains the entire world but is unfit and unhealthy to enjoy it?

Love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle.

I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please tap on the recommend button to like and comment using Disqus. Thank you.

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the little knowledge she has acquired.


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