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M. P. Ravindra Nathan


"We can't turn the clock back," is heard often enough but we can always move forward with health and vigor and live longer. Chandra Wilson, the beautiful black actor, was asked, "You are 39 now. How do you feel about aging?" "Bring it on! The word is that you get better, smarter and wiser with every year. I am looking forward to 40," she said. Like aged wine, there is an alchemy associated with aging. And you can look forward to your 50, 60, 70 or 80 and beyond.

After listening to my pitch on "You can live to celebrate your own centenary," one of my friends said: "As I look around, I am seeing a lot of 65 + and they don't know what to do, some of them are getting sick. So what is the point in living to 100?" Then another friend gave me the answer. "After I decided to retire and take it easy, people started telling me that I looked like a ghost. So, I decided to go back to work. One group even gave me the position of the director of one of their clinics and I am very happy now."

Here are the key points you should remember if you want to age gracefully and live longer.

1. Eat healthy and maintain your optimal body weight (a BMI below 25). Don't leave home without a breakfast, ideally a cereal breakfast, not the frosted kind if you can avoid. Happy snacking with nuts. All varieties of nuts are chockfull of satisfying flavors, healthful fats, proteins and fiber, the darling being walnut but also almonds and peanuts. Don't be seduced by fast foods, processed foods and excessive meats.

2. Keep moving. Exercise and fitness are critical for maintaining a youthful body.

3. Maintain a normal blood pressure (less than 120/ 80 is the ideal) and normal cholesterol profile.

4. Sleep well. After a good night's sleep you will wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. So learn the A B Cs of ZZZZZ..s.

5. Pay attention to your own body signals; these are warning signs indicative of an impending illness. Don't take a band aid approach and postpone the inevitable doctor's appointment. Don't be a self- denier, 'Oh, it can't happen to me' attitude will hurt you in the long run. Denial is a major problem we see in our practice and when they finally seek help, it may be too late.

6. Get periodic check ups. Most people have either a disease or a 'pre-disease state,' which calls for preventive and proactive measures or medical treatment to forestall its progression. Take responsibility for your health as you age.

7. Hydrate the body, so drink enough fluids. Your body is mostly water and you are what you drink.

8. Quit smoking and curb alcohol. One 4-ounce glass of red wine for women and two glasses for men are the medical norms. Tobacco and substance (even recreational) abuse have no role in health maintenance.

9. Keep your brain active. Read books, do cross word puzzles or Sudoku, have a spirited discussion on any subject with your friends etc. As Sanjay Gupta says, "Brains R Us."

10. Stay interested in others. Volunteer your free time for a good cause. Take your pick - temples, churches, library, local hospitals they need you. This makes you feel appreciated and you want to do more. Collect good friends, yes, they are like diamonds.

11. Enjoy life, doing the right things. That is an inspiration within itself; you would yearn to live more. Spend some time with nature, go for a walk in the neighborhood - look at the foliage, listen to the birds singing, deer running around (a common sight where I live in Brooksville) etc.

12. Keep smiling - positive attitude increases your longevity. Better still, have a belly laughter as often as possible, as much as possible. If possible, stay away from those grouchy and unhappy people.

13. Skin care - use sun protection. In Florida, skin cancers are so common from the effects of unprotected ultraviolet rays. Cleanse the skin thoroughly during showers, etc.

To be continued in the next issue.

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan, director of Hernando Heart Clinic in Brooksville, lives in Brooksville.



We all struggle with excess belly fat. That is the hardest fat area to tone up. However, routine abdomen exercise makes it easy to accomplish the flat belly goal as well.

I would like to introduce you to five exercises that you can do at gym or at home with and without equipments that produce terrific results toward making your abdomen muscles stronger and tighter.

The Bicycle exercise is the best move to target the rectus abdominis (i.e., the six pack) and the obliques (the waist), according to a study done by the American Council on Exercise.

How do we perform this exercise?

Lie face up on the floor and lace your fingers behind your head.

Bring the knees towards the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the ground without pulling on the neck. Straighten the left leg out while simultaneously turning the upper body to the right, bringing the left elbow toward the right knee.

Switch sides, bringing the right elbow toward the left knee.

Continue alternating sides in a pedaling motion for 12-16 reps.

The captain's chair leg raise is an effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the oblique. You can do a variety of exercises on the captain's chair, which is a rack with padded arms that allows your legs to hang free and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. Be sure to keep the knees bent. This helps you focus more on the abdominals and less on the hip flexors.

How do we perform this exercise?

Stand on chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.

Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest.

Don't arch the back or swing the legs up.

Slowly lower back down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

The exercise ball is an excellent tool to strengthen the abs exercise, specifically for rectus abdominis. The exercise ball gives support for the starter. It also helps minimize hip injury or any lower back or waist injuries. How do we perform this exercise?

Half-lie, face-up with the ball resting under your mid/lower back.

Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head.

Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips. As you curl up, keep the ball stable (i.e., you shouldn't roll).

o Have your legs against wall to stabilize your self.

Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 2 to 3 time with 10 reps.

The vertical leg crunch is another effective move for the rectus abdominis and the obliques. This exercise uses your body strength and weight. It can easily be done at home.

Lie face up on the floor and extend the legs straight up with knees crossed.

Contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet.

Keep the legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement.

Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps.

The Torso Track is a good home ab exercise equipment. However, it can create back injury if not done correctly. This exercise focuses on the upper part of the abdomen muscles, which also are a little easier to strengthen than the lower ab muscles.

Grip the handles of the Torso Track and pull the abs in without holding your breath (as though bracing them).

Exhale and glide forward as far as you comfortably can. If you collapse in the middle and feel it in your back, you've gone too far.

Contract the abs to pull your body back.

Add tension by using more tension chords.

Share your exercise experience and health-related stories by e-mailing

Payal Patel

There comes a time in every toddler's life when parents feel it is the right time to start potty training. Therefore, many parents come prepared with a slew of questions about the right time for their child and how to proceed so as not to instill a fear of toilet training.

First, you have to assess whether your child is ready to toilet train or not. This is evident by the child demonstrating the ability to understand what pee-pee, poo-poo, potty or whatever term is used. The readiness is usually demonstrated at 15-18 months of age. Most children are ready by the time they are 2 years old to proceed to be completely trained and most children can be trained by the time they are 3 years old.

A child has to be able to understand what the toilet is for, and this can be learned by watching older siblings or parents using the potty. Also, a child signifies readiness to train when he or she can tell the difference between a dry and wet diaper and shows interest in changing so they are dry. Many children actually are able to tell you when they are about to wet their diaper or when they have to stool as well.

To help your child, read toilet-training books so they understand what they will have to do soon. Let them play with older children who are toilet trained so they see that it will be OK when they use the toilet. Teach them how the toilet works. Be positive and supportive of their trial and errors, and don't get frustrated, which they will be able to sense.

The best way to start training your child is by praising them when they are able to tell you if they want to pee pee or poop. Do not scold or punish them if they hesitate; instead, be patient and try to make it fun. Buy a potty seat together and let the child know why you are doing it. Let them feel like they are in control by purchasing the seat, bringing it home and then experimenting with it.

Let them sit on it with their clothes to get a feel of what it will be when they are ready. Praise them for doing it. Talk about a plan where action will entitle them to a reward such as stickers, or healthy treats such as raisins, crackers, etc. Practice first when you notice your child either saying pee pee or has signs they want to void or stool, and lead him to the potty. Encourage him to take his diaper off and sit on the potty. Try to make it comfortable by either holding a favorite stuffed animal, a toy or even reading their favorite book.

If they are able to do it, praise and reward him appropriately. If it does not go as planned, reassure your child that it's OK and to try again next time.

Your child may continue to have accidents during the day, which is perfectly normal. Let he or she know its OK and mommy or daddy is not mad, and that he/she will get it eventually. Once the child consistently uses the toilet, you can use pull-ups to encourage and give them a sense they are a big boy or girl. If your child refuses to train, stop training, until a few months later, or when they feel ready.

Dr. Payal Patel is a board-certified pediatrician at Sunshine Pediatrics, 18928 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 102, Lutz. For information, call (813) 948-2679.

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