Cholesterol whispers

So what do you think is your most valuable asset? The shares of that company which seem to defy gravity, or is it that piece of land that you bought a long time ago which is now commanding the hefty price tag? Perhaps it is that company you own or that job you have where everything you touch turns gold.

I would like to differ. I believe your most valuable asset is staring at you when you look in the mirror everyday. This isn’t just me talking; this is what I hear from my patients. I am sure Steve Jobs would concur. It is the human body. That irreplaceable machine we all get, irrespective of race, religion, socioeconomic status. The human body with its many billion cells—all performing complex reactions in multiple different cycles, coming together to synchronise daily bodily functions. So how do you take care of this unique, one-in-a-world beautiful machine? It is not actually very difficult—diet, exercise, love, fresh air and lack of stress. So, let's break these down, shall we?

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

Cholesterol has been taken off the bad boy list, and refined sugar has joined saturated fats in the bad boys club. Cholesterol intake in food does not reflect on the LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol level. Saturated fats are the biggest culprit. So what is LDL cholesterol and why is it bad for us? Fats are not soluble, and need to be bound to proteins to be carried in the blood stream. LDL has a higher fat content. The LDL particles penetrate your vessel walls and cause damage. Your body, sensing the damage, sends reinforcements to the area—more cells—which starts a process called inflammation that causes more damage, and the cycle continues. The smaller the LDL particle, the more likely it can squeeze into blood vessels and cause damage. Refined carbohydrates contribute to higher small LDL levels and that’s the reason why sugars are on the restricted list.

There is a plethora of diets out there. Some of the more popular ones are Keto, Mediterranean and Paleo diets. The American Heart Association does not recommend any diet, rather the focus is on healthy eating. Diets are more difficult to stick to over time, while eating healthy food becomes a lifestyle. The recommendations are to limit added sugars and refined carbohydrates. Whole grain carbohydrates, such as oats, ragi and brown rice, are good for you. Read the food labels and limit trans and saturated fat. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like canola oil are good for you in addition to fish oil from salmon, sardines and lake trout. All fat isn’t bad. Limit total caloric intake to what you burn to keep a healthy weight. Try to get as much of your sugar from fruit.

The best things in life are actually free. One of them is exercise. It is cheap and will help you feel better about yourself and avoid those awful doctors and their bills. Contrary to what you think, we hate to see you sick. We want you to be healthy and happy. Exercise helps with stress, alleviates anxiety and improves self-confidence. Exercise and a good diet will help prevent cognitive decline and is proven to make you happier. The adoring glances from the opposite sex is just one of the perks.

Life comes at you fast. My patients tell me that they are young within, but trapped in older bodies. I recently went to a retirement party of a colleague. They were showing his old pictures, and I saw a strikingly handsome man in the photographs, as opposed to the older, greying colleague I had known. A mutual friend remarked that all the nurses would go to his lectures just to look at him. He was over six feet, on the football team and a Princeton graduate. “He was a real babe,” said his wife. He looked at her, smiled and said, “I am still a babe, just two babes wrapped in one.”

Be kind to yourself. The quantification of material accumulations really doesn’t affect mental peace and happiness. It is something that has to be worked on. Physical and mental health are interwoven. Life is about the process of learning about yourself. Science has proven that positive relationships help our mental health and stresses. Surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire you. Learn to deal with disappointments and failures, because tomorrow is another day and you can try again. Life isn’t that complicated.

I see the end of life on a daily basis. It isn’t always pretty, but it is inevitable. Life has a strange way of giving you everything, and then taking it away piece by piece. In the end, you have to make the journey alone, but if you live right, one life is plenty, and you probably will be ready when your time comes.