Most of us have heard that we should eat less fat and ghee, avoid meat, skip the junk food, pass on the soft drinks, and lace up our running shoes regularly to keep our hearts strong, bodies slim, and our blood sugar regulated. What you may not know is that if you are of South Asian descent (from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, or Nepal), you have an increased risk of developing heart disease, a big unhealthy gut, and type 2 diabetes, regardless of your other risk factors. That’s right—even if you are a slim, vegetarian, non-smoker with low cholesterol and average blood pressure, simply being Indian puts you at risk for these conditions.
Kaiser Permanente, a large health maintenance organization (HMO) in the US, found an alarmingly high rate of hospitalization for heart disease among its Indian male patients in Northern California—almost 4 times higher than Caucasian patients and 6 times higher than Chinese patients. This was probably not due to over diagnosis or over treatment, because Kaiser is a conservative HMO that only recommends expensive procedures to the most high-risk cases.
- Indians have a 50-400% higher rate of heart disease and diabetes than other populations, regardless of geographic location.
- While most people think of heart disease as a “man’s disease,” Indian women have anequally highdisease rate as Indian men.
- Being vegetarian doesn’t seem to protect Indians in the same way that it protects those of other ethnicities. Vegetarian Indians have a similar rate of heart disease and diabetes as non-vegetarians.
- Being slim doesn’t protect Indians, either. Heart disease and diabetes occur in Indians who have a normal BMI.
- In a study of Indian doctors, most of whom were aware of the traditional cardiovascular risk factors, one in ten had documented heart disease.
One of the most disconcerting facts is that even the young and seemingly healthy Indians aren’t immune from having a heart attack or developing diabetes. About one half of Indian men who have a heart attack are 50 years old or younger, and one quarter are 40 or younger.
The numbers are startling and conclusive—Indians are uniquely at risk for serious and potentially deadly chronic conditions. The question is, WHY?
Traditional Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
Traditional risk factors for heart disease include
- High blood pressure
- High total cholesterol
- Low physical activity
- Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
Traditional risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A sugar-heavy diet
- High blood pressure
The Indian Risk Factor
Over the last 15 years, leading institutions like the Stanford South Asian Translational Heart Initiative (Ssathi); the South Asian Heart Center (SAHC) at El Camino Hospital said that Multi-disciplinary research has uncovered additional genetic and lifestyle-related risk factors that are particularly relevant in the South Asian population, including:
- High amounts of Lipoprotein(a), or LP(a). LP (a) is a type of LDL cholesterol, which is commonly thought of as the “bad” cholesterol. LP(a) is even more dangerous than LDL cholesterol and is strongly linked with heart disease. Your LP(a) level is largely genetically determined. LP(a) levels tend to be higher in South Asians than in Caucasians.
- High amounts of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid that your body produces, and it is strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Unlike LP(a), your homocysteine level is largely related to what you eat. South Asians tend to have high levels of homocysteine compared to other ethnicities.
- High levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein(hs-CRP).High hs-CRP levels are associated with both heart disease and diabetes. Studies have found higher hs-CRP levels among South Asians than other populations. Like homocysteine, high hs-CRP levels are likely related to lifestyle factors, like abdominal obesity and being physically inactive.
- Abdominal obesity. Many South Asians have a normal BMI, slim arms and legs, and a large belly. This is called abdominal obesity, and it’s more strongly associated with heart disease and diabetes than BMI. South Asians can develop diabetes with just a small amount of abdominal obesity. Plus, even those without abdominal obesity often have internal, hidden fat that covers their organs and contributes to chronic conditions.
- Metabolic Syndrome. If you have three or more of the following five criteria, you have metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels, pre-hypertension, or pre-diabetes. Having metabolic syndrome puts you at high risk for heart disease and diabetes. One third of South Asians have metabolic syndrome.
In short, South Asians have a hereditary susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes. That genetic predisposition can interact with and amplify common lifestyle risk factors, like being physically inactive and eating an inflammatory diet, putting South Asians at a dangerously high risk.
So What Can You Do?
If you are South Asian, don’t feel discouraged!
The good news is that most of these risk factors can be effectively managed with nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, adequate sleep, and medical interventions when necessary. Personally, I was told fourteen years ago that I needed open-heart surgery. Instead of going under the knife, I chose to manage my serious cardiac risk using NUTRITION, regular moderate exercise, and meditation. I have been healthy ever since.
Avoid the Nutritional Whitewash because metabolism is unique. Understand it! The first step towards nutritional health is to understand your metabolic speed up the process:
Ayurveda’s recommendations to boost up body metabolism
Exercising is the best way to speed up body metabolism. Even during the rainy season, exercises can be done indoors. But caught in today’s stressful lifestyles for those of you, who lack time and energy to exercise, and those who remain tied to their desks all day, here are a few alternatives from Ayurveda for improving body metabolism:
- A glass of herbal tea made with herbs such as mint leaves, coriander leaves, tulsi and bay leaves to which two teaspoons of honey is added, when consumed regularly promotes weight loss and increases metabolism.
- Preferably go in for a liquid diet one day every month, with adequate vegetable and fruit juice, soups, water and milk.
- Consult an Ayurvedic physician and take guggulu everyday, a herb that aids digestion and maintains body metabolic rate. Triphala “ a formulation containing three fruits such as bibhitaki, haritaki and amla helps in detoxification, while also nourishing the nervous system and improves digestion.
- Consume a glass of warm water to which a drop of honey is added, every morning, particularly during fluctuating temperature, as it could upset metabolism.
- Practice Kapalbhati and Suryanadi Pranayam everyday to keep the body warm and speed body metabolism.
- Bathing regularly in warm water helps improve body metabolism.
- Preferably, the ideal breakfast for improving body metabolism could be a cereal with skimmed mild, a grapefruit, skimmed milk, apple or fruit juice.
- Add ginger to all food ingredients for better digestion. Preferably, consume one tsp. of ginger powder after lunch.
There are certain herbs which may help to boost your metabolism and may help you to prevent chronic illness and they are as follows:
Triphalaid is a proprietary researched formulation at Herbalage research labs, which is the combination of the classical triphala according to Ayurvedic texts and other complementing herbs to ignite the effects. It is helpful in detoxifying, cleansing and eliminating the waste from colon and thus gives you a healthy routine life.
- Improves digestion and help absorb nutrition from the food we consume.
- Help strengthen the digestive system to digest occasional heavy foods.
- Works as laxative apart from being digestive and help eliminate waste in routine.
- Being the richest of source of natural vitamin C, it helps attain good eyesight, soft, supple and thick skin at every age.
- Full of calcium and other micronutrients and performs as anti-oxidant, helps strengthen bones, reducing tri-glycerides and manage blood pressure. Regular consumption slower downs the ageing process.
Sugafite is a well researched and perfect blend herbs and minerals to control diabetes by just improving the utilization of blood glucose in type II diabetic condition. It is recommended to be consumed alongwith oral anti-diabetic medicines. Consuming daily with discipline, it gradually helps reduce decrease the dosage of anti-diabetic drugs until no longer necessary.
- Helps regulate absorption of blood sugar, normalize level of glucose and improves sensitivity of insulin receptor.
- Equally helpful in Type I diabetes as it is in Type II.
- Helps manage diabetes borne pain and infections.
- Very effective in the patient depending upon Insulin therapy.
- Builds stamina, increase energy and promote healthy sex life.
Key ingredients & their benefits:
- Arjuna alone is capable of upholding the healthy heart alone. But alongwith Jatamansi, It helps manage high blood pressure, boosts HDL (the good cholesterol), lowers LDL (the bad cholesterol) and helps nearly all cardiovascular activity.
- Pushkar mool possesses anti-anginal, hypoglycemic properties and helps in maintaining the blood pressure which is already in the normal range.
- Devdaaru, Khursaini Ajwain & Kachoor helps manage all sorts of cardio-vascular diseases and lessen heart pain.
- Haritki helps reduce total cholesterol, triglyceride and keeps heart disease at bay.