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Should we concentrate on ensuring that our bodies are in tip top physical condition or aim to be as thin and shapely as possible? Is physical fitness more important than body weight? The latest research confirms that robust physical health matters more than being super skinny and that some very thin women may still be at risk for significant health problems.

According to a report in the British Medical Journal, doing battle with excess kilos doesn’t guarantee better health. For most people it is natural to have a few curves; this does not mean we are “fat” or unhealthy. It’s the amount of physical exercise that we do that is the key to our health, not our dress size.

The chronic physical inactivity that plagues so many people is linked to several serious “lifestyle” diseases. Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease are all linked to unhealthy choices in food and activity level. The heart is a muscular organ and needs to be exercised to stay strong just like all our other muscles. You can be very thin and follow a good diet, but if the heart isn’t trained, your health is in jeopardy.

If you are overweight and fit, you may outlive a thin or normal-weight person who has a low level of cardiovascular fitness. So our body weight has less to do with longevity and health than the diet gurus would have us believe.

How Fit is Fit?

Physical fitness can be measured using accelerometers and these reveal that most people don’t exercise nearly enough to stay healthy. If you’re 25-45 years old you should be able to run or cycle non-stop for 20 minutes and walk quickly up six flights of stairs without pause. Anything less and you’re considered unfit, or so says Gavin Sandercock of the University of Essex. BMI (Body Mass Index) and body weight don’t really matter; fitness is the key to health.

This doesn’t mean that being overweight is healthy, just that being slightly overweight and fit can still be considered physically fit and healthy. Very slim people can hide layers of internal fat and high cholesterol. Normal weight is ideal, but even more important is paying attention to training our heart and lungs to optimal fitness levels. Of course, being very overweight or obese is not healthy and should never be encouraged.

Stress, poor diet and obesity all lead to health conditions that take years off your life. Most indicative of poor condition is the amount of belly fat we carry. This is a risk factor independent of diet and exercise and has even been linked to an increased risk of cancer. When somebody is overweight their risk of heart disease increases by 20% but underweight people are an incredible 60% more at risk.

Measuring our waistlines may be more useful than BMI calculations. Women’s waists should measure 32 inches, men’s less than 37 inches. Concentrate on these rather than BMI measurements when determining which fitness program is best for you.

Make lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity (take up a sport or start running and do aerobics), eat less fatty meat and full-fat dairy produce, don’t smoke and drink moderately. This gives you the best chance of cheating the mirror and beating Father Time at his own game. Staying healthy is a choice, so forget about how much you weigh and choose a strong, healthy heart that goes the distance instead.

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Why Is My Hair Falling Out? 10 Likely Causes

Hair loss can be worrying, embarrassing, and difficult to treat, but it affects most people at some point in their lives. About 85 percent of men and 45 percent of women experience significantly thinning hair by the age of 50. Aging isn’t the only cause of hair loss, however, with many medical, dietary, and lifestyle factors playing a role.

Aging

Hair loss is most often caused by aging, so check how old your parents were when they started losing hair. This can help you estimate a timeline of your own scalp longevity. Some hair loss is natural once you’re into your 40s.

Alopecia

Alopecia occurs when the immune system starts mistakenly attacking hair follicles, limiting hair growth and causing round bald spots. It can be severe, permanent, and reoccurring, although the hair loss is mild for many people. Treatments are improving, however, so consult your doctor if you’re seeing completely hairless circular patches.

Stress

Emotional stress can cause balding or trigger alopecia in some people (particularly if it runs in your family). Try to get your stressors under control by adjusting your lifestyle, meditating, or seeing a psychologist. Your hair most likely will grow back over time.

Pregnancy

Bald patches commonly occur during pregnancy due to the influx of hormones that carrying a baby produces. The hair almost always grows back, but make sure to check in with your doctor if you see any significant scalp changes.

Going Off The Pill

Switching or going off contraceptive (birth control) pills can cause temporary hair loss in some women as the body readjusts to its natural levels of androgen and estrogen. This type of hair loss is particularly common in younger women.

Steroid Use

Anabolic steroids, most often used by bodybuilders and athletes, can also alter your hormonal balance and cause hair loss. This usually isn’t permanent, but it can be a sign that you need to give your body a break from steroids.

Too Much Vitamin A

Excess vitamin A can cause premature balding and hair loss in some people. Make sure your supplements contain less than the recommended daily limit of 5,000 IU.

Hypothyroidism

An underactive thyroid gland, known as hypothyroidism, can lead to significant hair loss as the body fails to produce enough hormones to keep the hair follicles active. Thyroid medications usually help with the hair loss as well as the underlying problem.

Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder that causes sufferers to twist, tug, and pull out strands of hair from their head, eyebrows, or eyelashes. The underlying issue is psychological, so trichotillomania is best addressed by a cognitive behavioral therapist.

Intense Styling

Excessive usage of chemical hair relaxers and tight braids can cause the hair shaft to weaken and fall out. This hair loss can be permanent, so avoid intense styling and be gentle with your hair as it grows in.

Hair loss can be scary but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Reach out to a medical professional if you think that your hair loss is significant, and assess the treatment options available to you.


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