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Experts advise nutrient-dense foods and regular exercise
February 12 2019 01:08 AM
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Reem al-Saadi

In recognition of Qatar National Sport Day, Hamad Medical Corporation’s Dietetics and Nutrition director Reem al-Saadi and the National Obesity Treatment Center director Dr Monica Skarulis are raising awareness about the link between lifestyle choices and good health. 
“Consuming nutrient-dense foods in the right quantities, from all the food groups, and engaging in regular physical activity are major determinants of good health. There are countless studies that have demonstrated the benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet in the treatment of the most common medical problems,” al-Saadi said.
Dr Skarulis pointed out that exercise is a powerful tool for both the treatment and prevention of chronic disease, for mitigating the harmful effects of obesity, and for lowering mortality rates. She says individuals who are sedentary are at risk for a number of chronic diseases.
“There are four basic factors that contribute to a person’s overall health status, including genetics, environment, access to healthcare, and behaviour, with the last factor accounting for roughly half of a person’s overall health. Once an individual understands what factors are contributing to weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle, a healthcare professional can help them set appropriate goals,” added Dr Skarulis.
Located in building 311 in Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City, HMC’s National Obesity Treatment Center treats between 800 to 900 patients each month and delivers holistic, multidisciplinary care for patients in need of medical management, lifestyle modifications, bariatric, and endoscopic procedures. 
While Dr Skarulis recommends obese individuals consult with their doctor before beginning a weight-loss journey, she says most people won’t require the specialised services provided at the National Obesity Treatment Center to lose weight. She says healthcare professionals play an important role in highlighting the significance of diet and exercise and she calls physical inactivity a major public health threat.
“Making lifestyle changes isn’t always easy, but it is the key to long-term weight loss and good health. Frontline healthcare providers can play a role in encouraging their patients to engage in exercise. Regular physical activity has been shown to significantly improve quality of life. Active individuals are able to maintain a high functional capacity for much of their life. Exercise can truly be medicine and it has been shown to prevent chronic disease and extend life,” said Dr Skarulis.
Al-Saadi observed individuals with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, which for the average person equates to approximately 30 pounds of excess weight, are most at risk of developing serious health problems. 
“Dietitians and nutritionists can help patients to understand the significance of making healthier choices when selecting meals and beverages. Becoming educated about nutrition, learning how to read food labels, and following recommended portion sizes, are all essential to making better decisions,” she said.
“The serving size and number of servings per package section of a nutrition label show how many servings are in the package and how big a serving is, which is generally listed as ‘cups’ or ‘pieces’. The most important numbers to look for on a food label are portion size, portions per package, total fat, trans and saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and fibre. The information shown on the label is based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. You may need less or more than 2,000 calories depending upon your age, gender, activity level, and whether you are trying to lose, gain, or maintain your weight,” said al-Saadi.



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