Some of the most meaningful and well-intended wishes from friends and family read “Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year, Health is Wealth, Cheers to Good Health in 2021!” They all have a common theme - good health. Now more than ever, we value and understand the importance of innate immunity, a fit body and mind and truly wish we could fight anything that may compromise our health.
What can we do to stay healthy?
Is it mindfulness, exercise, eating healthy or is there something you can really do new this year that you may not have tried before or read in a health blog or heard straight from your doctors? When we read about top athletes with a perfect Body Mass Index, going through angioplasty for a heart attack, it is shocking and frustrating at the same time, and many questions arise in our mind? So, what more could have been done?
The Real Risk
What are the causes for the increased cardiovascular events in South Asians (people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka) and what can be done to prevent early cardiac disease in South Asians?
South Asians have a disproportionately high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, more than any other ethnic group or race in the US. South Asians may develop heart disease before the fifth decade of their life. While South Asians represent a quarter of the global population, they unfortunately comprise 60% of the world's heart patients. One of the most important longitudinal studies, Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA), identifies the unique health concerns for this group.
Diabetes is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease. South Asians have a higher insulin resistance, impaired insulin secretion, and, despite a normal body weight, may have abnormal fat distribution around the abdominal organs including the liver. Studies indicate that inflammatory processes from this ectopic fat distribution may be linked to atherosclerosis, a process in which there is stiffening and fat deposit in the arteries.
The Challenges of following a Healthy Lifestyle
Once the South Asian-American patient gets diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes or has risk factors for heart disease, he or she is immediately given the appropriate recommendation for lifestyle modification. A team of doctors, nutritionists and health coaches start working on a multi-disciplinary approach to help modify lifestyle and emphasize a healthy diet and exercise at least 150 minutes a week. However, the patient continues to remain confused as to what to eat. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of specific culturally appropriate lifestyle guidance for our high-risk population. Studies indicate that when people are given targeted advice on lifestyle modifications and dietary changes that they are culturally familiar with, they are more likely to make changes that positively impact their health.
One of the most consistent medical advice we give to our patients for a healthy heart is to follow a Mediterranean diet. Research studies have shown that Mediterranean diet, which encourages intake of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and olive oil is a dietary model that will protect against heart disease. But what really is a Mediterranean diet, and can we really sustain this diet daily? Does it mean giving up the cuisine we relish and have grown up enjoying? The truth is that Mediterranean diet can be demystified and adapted to suit the South Asian palate.
We at Haldi Living will bring you tips for a healthy and hearty South Asian diet that are backed by medical science and incorporate the wisdom of Ayurveda.
Find out more about HALDI Living's recommendations on healthy beginnings
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