With medical breakthroughs and geriatric care, longevity is increasing. The number of senior citizens in the country hence is growing exponentially and it has been predicted that by 2050, every fifth Indian will be a senior citizen. Caring for the elderly however is often challenging. These challenges are not just physical but also emotional and mental.

Consultant Geriatrician, Preventive Cardiologist and an Anti-ageing specialist, Dr. Lenny da Costa was the guest on the Navhind Times talk show, Talk from the Heart which aired on the Goa 354 channel on Sunday, September 10.

A Functional Medicine expert as well, Da Costa explained the difference between functional and modern medicine. Today non-communicable chronic disorders like hypertension and diabetes are on the rise and people are taking medications for these conditions for years without any reversal or remission. Unlike modern medicine, Functional medicine which is also science-based is patient-focused and addresses the root cause of a condition not the symptoms,” he said. The five areas that this discipline looks into are nutrition, toxicity, hormones, mind and the body.

Da Costa who has also studied the effect of hormones on aging, highlighted the role of good nutrition, exercise, ample amount of sleep, etcetera on keeping the hormones healthy. “Hormones have a major role in aging. We believe that as we age our hormones decline but that is far from the truth; it is the other way around. We age when our hormones decline, he stated. Citing the thyroid gland, he explained its role in the basal metabolic rate of an individual and keeping him/her in shape and how its decline causes serious issues. The testosterone and progesterone hormones regulate the nervous system and affect how you feel. The moment they start declining, you suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, besides other conditions. Hence it is extremely important to keep our hormones in balance.”

Speaking about some of the common challenges the elderly face, Da Costa named insomnia, diabetes, constipation, coronary issues and others. The wrong foods, he said was one of the major causes of diabetes. Giving the analogy of a petrol car which has diesel, he explained how wrong foods impede the body from functioning to its full potential. “We were meant to eat one type of food but we feed our bodies another kind and this causes a breakdown. Today we are heavily dependent on grains like rice, jowar, wheat or bajra it causes problems,” he explained. To reverse diabetes he recommended cutting out carbohydrates or keeping it to a minimum of not more than 25% in the diet. “The carbs should come from vegetables and fruits and not grains,” he stressed.

A huge myth that Da Costa debunked was that fats cause cholesterol. “Triglycerides go up because of grains or bad oils that we consume,” he said and elaborated how hydrogenation makes the oil in to trans fatty acids. He advocated good fats like home-made ghee, virgin coconut oil or any cold-pressed oil. Sharing a tip how to determine if an oil is good for you, he said, “Keep it in the refrigerator and if it hardens, it means it is good. If it doesn’t, it indicates that it is processed and hence harmful. A good amount of fat, moderate amount of protein and low grains, with the addition of a minimum of 20-minutes of exercise, he said will help the sugar levels drop and also taper the amount of medication consumed. He also highly recommended inter-mitten fasting and added, For those who really want to put their diabetes in to remission, mimic what we used to do seventy thousand years ago. That is eat when you are hungry and practice inter-mitten fasting at least two or three times a week.”