Dr H.K. Chopra, a reputed cardiologist with a vast clinical experience, explains through this book that a healthy lifestyle comprising of a low-fat diet, regular physical exercises, stress-management, check on addiction and a clean, pollution-free environment can keep a person physically and mentally healthy. He stresses that yoga and meditation can help to lead a healthy life and through various facts and practical examples shows how a disease-free society can be created provided the laws of Nature are followed. A faulty lifestyle is responsible for the rising menace of heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, cancer, diabetes, smoking and alcoholism, psychiatric ailments, hyperacidity and inflammatory bowel diseases. He emphasises that a definite relationship exists between lifestyle and health, mind and body. A fit of anger may precipitate a heart attack or a stroke. The state of mind, such as cynicism, hostility, greed, lack of faith and confidence predispose us to premature diseases. He advocates a holistic approach to health and the need to establish health clubs and resorts but not hospitals.
The modern era of industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation has brought in a pronounced change in our lifestyle, leading to obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, anxiety, depression and stress. He says, ?Good sleep, a nourishing diet, regular exercises, regular meditation and yoga, a positive attitude to life and music therapy enhance the quality of health and do not allow us to fall victim to addiction and a faulty lifestyle.?
Dr Chopra has classified stress into conflict (negative stress) and eustress (positive stress). Conflict at home or workplace is a most common negative stress due to a fight, struggle, argument, disagreement, clash or negative competition between two individuals. ?The ultimate outcome of conflict is low productivity or no productivity,? he says. Distress is negative stress which is counterproductive. This reminds us of what Milton had said, ?The mind in its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.?
Every form of stress produces three types of responses: syntoxic or ignoring response or catatonic or fight or flight response. The hypothalamus or the ?brain of the brain? stimulates the adrenal glands which in turn release chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisone, thereby quickening the heart rate, causing irregular pulse, increase in blood pressure and rate of breathing and dilation of pupils increasing tension in the muscles and subsequently enhancing working of the blood-clotting mechanism. Hence if the negative emotions are intense, they may cause aggregation of platelets, stimulate clot formation, and cause unstable angina, a massive heart attack, a stroke or paralysis.
The author has cited cases of patients who have been victims of negative stress. For management of stress, he suggests meditation ?one of the best methods of relaxation known to mankind in the world, and also rational thinking, effective communication skills by being a good listener and assertive communication. A particularly good way of summing up the chapter has been adopted by inclusion of questions from some patients suffering form stress and by providing answers.
The next chapter is on anger management to counter the negative emotions. Dr Chopra suggests many ways of facing this negative emotion particularly through meditation or counting up to 100 or changing the topic of discussion. He suggests adoption of laughter in tense situations, particularly by laughing with others and not at them. Another way out is to adopt newness in oneself and take to meditation and mind-body intervention. Learning to be flexible also helps. Dr Chopra repeats what others have often said, ?Lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle leads to disability and disease.? He advocates regular moderate exercise such as walking, gardening or home repairs as best remedies to provide almost ?all the health and longevity benefits without the risks of more intense exercise?.
As a staunch propagator of yoga, Dr Chopra advises that ?the ambience of a natural environment, such as an open park with lush greenery will enliven the prana, tejas and ojas.? He even advocates a daily practice of sun salute or asanas and pranayama. He has even explained some of the asanas one can do and says abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, love and tolerance for others, weight management through proper diet and exercise, proper and perfect sleep are good remedies for gaining control over one'sanger.
Dr Chopra advocates the use of honey, the elixir of life, in remaining healthy and suggests ways and means of using honey to cure skin aliments, gastric disorders, pimples on face, etc. He says that tea has great potential for enhancing health as it is an antioxidant and intake of it, preferably green tea, keeps one healthy. Almonds are good and so are walnuts as these contain fatty acids that convert the omega-3 oils which are associated with fewer blood clots and decreased risk of stroke. Water, the health miracle, is absolutely essential to keep the body metabolism in order and at least six to eight glasses must be consumed every day.
Dr Chopra is in favour of massage therapy for restoration of health. He says health care practices should include pizhichil (pouring of medicated oil on the body, except on the head and face as practiced in Kerala). He devotes a special chapter to taking care of menopausal women and suggests use of soyabean products, calcium and vitamin D to strengthen the bones and lessen the symptoms of menopause.
He concludes by saying that even in Bhagwad Gita it has been said that nobody can be stressfree, but one should follow a lifestyle that teaches one to cope with stress in the right manner before adverse effects are experienced. ?It has been well documented that our mental universe or thoughts have a tremendous influence on our physical health, productivity, creativity and potential. Instead of grumbling, protesting and agitating?we can harness this energy to generate zeal, determination, persistence, enthusiasm dynamism and perseverance which may help us reach our goal.?
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