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Health tops new year resolutions

Nothing comes to those who wait. This provocative thought among others prompts many to start each new year with good intentions aimed at being happier and delaying the “best-by” dates of their lives.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 24, 2012 12:03 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Sanchita Sharma

Nothing comes to those who wait. This provocative thought among others prompts many to start each new year with good intentions aimed at being happier and delaying the “best-by” dates of their lives. Many people look older than they feel, and most want to look younger and fitter than they are. Visions of healthier, happier times ahead for ever and more, however, seldom stops the majority from abandoning their turn-of-the-year resolutions in the first few weeks of their making, if not within days.

Globally, resolutions revolving around health usually top the wishlist charts. In the UK, for example, losing weight topped the to-do list this year, followed by exercising to get fitter and eating more healthily.

Saving money and career concerns came next, beating spending more time with family, friends and loved ones, showed the Channel 4 survey released on Friday.

Irrespective of your priorities, the inability to see resolutions through should not deter you from making them. Good intentions are a start. For one, they are a fairly accurate indicator of the things that really matter to you. More important, resolutions help you identify issues you can take charge of and do something about to improve your sense of well-being. To come back to where we started, resolutions are the routing you need to reach your destination without inconvenient detours and breakdowns.

Now, more than ever before, it makes sense to preserve your health the best you can. About a decade ago, Dr Maria Blasco, current head of the Spanish National Cancer Centre in Madrid, Spain, identified an enzyme that extended the lifespan of mice by 40%. The enzyme, called telomerase, helped elongate the tails of chromosomes called telomeres, which shorten as you age. Trials using a nutritional supplement called TA-65 derived from the Chinese herb astragalus, has been shown to reduce the number of critically short telomeres in humans. With more extensive trials set to start this year, the world may get its first supplement that stops ageing in the near future. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/08-01-12-metro16b.jpg

The length of telomeres is already being measured to predict some diseases. For US $500, researchers in Spain are close to marketing a genetic test to determine how fast you are ageing and, by extension, how long you will live. People with the shortest telomeres — shorter than 99% of the population — are at risk for certain diseases, including bone marrow cancer and lung diseases, but the test is still not popular commercially as it’s too expensive and does little more than give you a rough indication of how much time you have before the final goodbye.

Other factors that influence telomere length are gender (universally, women outlive men by an average of five years), smoking, heavy drinking, obesity, family history of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancers, stress and sun exposure.

So, therein lies the rub. You could just sit back and wait for the miracle anti-ageing drug or you could start making the most of the information you have to get the best out of your life. Quitting smoking could be a start: it not only gives you cancers, heart attacks and prune lips and skin, but also shortens telomeres.

Losing weight, exercising and eating more healthy come next. And for more, just take your pick from the UK's most wanted.