Healthy LIfe

Dr. Saw Huat Seong, Senior Consultant Cardio thoracic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, believes that lifestyle is a major factor in determining whether someone contracts heart disease. “I am a big proponent of lifestyle modifications. There are various risk factors to consider when talking about heart disease. Most people suffer from lack of exercise. Rich people are driven to their offices, they are driven everywhere, and there is no tradition of exercise.

“One thing most people are averse to is morning exercise routines. I don't know why, but most of you do not want to get up early in the morning and exert yourselves. One thing that is advantageous about morning exercise is that the ground is cool early in the morning. In the evening, all of the heat that the earth has accumulated from the sun is radiated to the atmosphere, and this has the effect of wear out those who exercise during that time. Another advantage is, in the early morning, we have some time to ourselves, while later we become busy, which in turn gives us excuses to evade exercise,” he said.

Diet is also very important, according to Dr. Seong. “Most people in south Asia take three big meals a day, which is unhealthy. There is a theory, and I think it is a good theory, that says that people should eat in smaller quantities throughout the day. This is particularly effective in combating diabetes.”

Dr. Timothy Lee, a Consultant Neurosurgeon at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore will deliver his lecture on neck and lower back pains. “Neck and lower back pains are largely degenerative phenomena that get worse with age. 95 percent of patients do not need surgery, and for them the main objective should be to manage the pain by taking certain preventive measures.

“A common misconception is that the pain will be helped if you turn your head from side to side and make the cracking sound that is made when we crack our knuckles. While this may provide short term relief, it is harmful in the long run. These pains happen because of bones grinding against each other, therefore turning your head from side to side will eventually be harmful,” Lee said.

“Hyper extending the neck, like we do when looking upwards is harmful as it places stress on the neck. A possible way to lessen the effect of degeneration is to do exercises that build up muscles in the neck to provide support,” he added and went on to demonstrate the exercise which involves placing a hand on each of the four sides of the head (front, back, left, right) and pushing against it, without changing head position.

“Also, the position in which we sleep is important as we spend about six to eight hours a day in that position. The best sleeping position in this regard is to sleep on your back as that is the natural position. A crucial thing to remember is that there has to be cushioning under the neck, so as to avoid stress. Often, people sleep with just their heads on the pillow without support for the neck. The same applies to the lower back. Some think that it will help back pain if they sleep on a hard surface. That is wrong because our backs are naturally curved, and to avoid stress we must sleep on a mattress that supports our backs,” he said.

Some forms of exercise are harmful to the lower back. “Sit-ups, and any form of exercise that involves bending forward places stress on the lower back and aggravates back pain. Bending backwards builds muscles which support the region, and that is helpful in the long run.”

The importances of our lifestyles come through in both the doctors' words. Health is an often undervalued part of our lives, but it is up to us to ensure through proper lifestyle choices that we do not suffer too much in our old age.


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