Binita PriyambadaJun 12, 2019 15:42:00 IST
If you had just one piece of health advice for people in their 20s, what it would be?
You might be wondering: why I am asking you to answer this question?
That's because most of the 20-year olds do not worry too much about their health and are more concerned about achieving their academic or career goals. For them, health is primarily thought of in the limited definition of fitness, which includes hitting the gym, bodybuilding, weight management, and dieting, etc. By the time they realize that there is something wrong they are already in their 30s or 40s and the conditions have already progressed to become symptomatic. However, the progression of these conditions can be easily stopped if men start to keep a check on the changing numbers right from an early age.
But what numbers are we talking about?
Metabolic syndrome refers to a set of conditions that altogether increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These conditions include high blood pressure, increased fat around the waist, abnormal triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the body, etc. You can easily manage these conditions and prevent them from worsening if you can keep a strict eye on the parameters mentioned below:
Normal blood pressure is taken as below 120/80 mm Hg, where 120 is the systolic and 80 is the diastolic value. Blood pressure higher than 120 systolic or 80 diastolic is classified as prehypertension and it is in this stage that lifestyle management will help in keeping BP under control. Any value above 140/90 is called hypertension or high blood pressure. As per the Fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) conducted in 2018, 13.8 per cent men between 15 - 49 years of age suffered from hypertension in India. Therefore, if young men undergo regular health check-ups they will know if they are suffering from any blood pressure related problems and take timely measures to ensure that the condition doesn’t become serious.
If you are above 30, overweight, do not exercise or have family members with diabetes, knowing your blood sugar levels is very important for you. A normal fasting blood sugar level (without having eaten anything for more than 8 hours) is up to 100 mg/dL. A sugar level more than this may be a sign of pre-diabetes or diabetes, and when it comes to diabetes, men are always at a greater risk. Diabetes, if detected on time can be easily managed and risks of developing other complications such as retina damage, kidney damage, heart attack or CVD can be significantly lowered.
One of the easiest ways to know the status of your health doesn’t even require you to visit a lab. All you need to do is, simply wrap a measuring tape around your waist and check that number. If your waist size is less than 34 inches, you lie in the safe zone but if it is more than that then it’s time to make some changes in your diet and start doing some exercise. The fat accumulating in your abdominal area is difficult to get rid of and is a risk factor for developing a heart problem.
Body Mass Index
Body mass index (BMI), (defined as the ratio of weight in kgs to that of a square of height in meters) indicates whether a person has a healthy weight, is obese or overweight. Keeping a check on weight is imperative as obesity accompanies several other health problems and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. If you are overweight or obese, it is advisable to consult a doctor or a dietician and start exercising regularly. For people who exercise regularly or are into bodybuilding, BMI may be high, but that would reflect more muscle mass rather than fat mass and is not a problem.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance which can clog arteries, predisposing you to heart diseases, even heart attack, and stroke. Total cholesterol levels are mostly divided into High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL). Higher levels of HDL are considered good while levels of LDL higher than 130 mg/dL may put you at risk of developing heart-related diseases. Keeping a check on these numbers right from an early age is therefore very imperative.
Triglyceride is another fat in the blood, although not cholesterol, its levels are usually high in many Indians. High levels of triglyceride can increase the risk of heart disease and pancreatitis.
So, that was about the numbers you should keep a track of.
Does something need to be said about those lifestyle habits that are making you prone to various deadly diseases?
Mentioned below are some of the habits that must be changed at a young age for a healthier life ahead.
Partying and consuming alcohol have become an inseparable part of the life of youngsters and most of them seem to be a moderate drinker. Consuming excessive alcohol affects almost all the organs of the body and may even lead to health problems such as weight gain, heart-related ailments, depression, and nerve damage. Limiting the consumption of alcohol is extremely necessary for the young generation not only to stay healthy but also to accomplish their life goals. WHO has defined the low-risk level of drinking, which advises not more than 5 small (30 ml) drinks in a day and not more than 14 such drinks in a week. There should be at least two drink-free days a week.
As a sexually active man, you will need to be a little more cautious. You should use protection (condom) while engaging in sexual intimacy. Condoms not only help in preventing unwanted pregnancy but also safeguard you against STDs such as HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, etc. Men having more than one sexual partner or Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) are at a high risk of getting hepatitis and STDs. For some of these, lifelong protection in the way of vaccines (Hepatitis B) is available, but for others (HIV, Syphilis) safe sex practices are the only prevention.
In the case of high-risk exposure (sex worker etc.) getting in touch with a health professional within 3 days is important so that tests and preventive drugs can be offered. Lastly, do not ignore STD like symptoms such as discharge from the urethra, burning in urine or any ulcer, boils, etc. in the genital area, seek help.
Gaining a perfect body shape has become a goal for almost every young man. They spend hours in the gym trying to pump up their muscles and look better. Exercising is good for the body and helps a person to stay healthy, but exercising excessively puts the body under a lot of pressure and may even affect your immune system.
Smoking or tobacco use
Smoking is one of the major causes of lung cancer and is responsible for the death of millions. But even then, youngsters are too much inclined towards this deadly habit. Also, Indian youth consume too much gutkha or chewable tobacco. As a result Mouth cancer is the leading cancer in men in India and affects 20 in 100,000 people. It is best to never pick up these habits, but if you have, consider quitting soon and get help.
Summing it up
You have this one beautiful life and you cannot live it to the fullest if you do have the energy to move around. Therefore, why not start taking care of your health right away?
Men’s health week is celebrated in the month of June to take an opportunity to raise awareness among men about several health problems and the different practices that will lead to a healthier life. This week helps the media, public policy makers and individuals a valid reason to encourage young men to seek regular medical advice and keep an eye on various factors that can indicate the status of their health.
You have this one beautiful life and make sure that you live it the best way possible way by staying ahead of the conditions that may develop if you remain ignorant.
The author is a Senior Consultant to the Medical Team at docprime.com
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