Choos­ing to live well

Are you will­ing to make the ef­fort to pur­sue true health?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HEALTH - By Dr C.S. FOO

PER­HAPS, this is the fi­nal cho­rus of the song that has been play­ing on al­ter­nate Wed­nes­days. As the cur­tains come down, there will be no stand­ing ova­tion. Very soon, much of the lyrics would have been for­got­ten, and for many, life goes on as be­fore.

The few brave souls who stopped at that cru­cial in­ter­sec­tion, and de­cided to make a right turn to­wards true health, will never re­gret mak­ing that choice ... pro­vided they do not make a U-turn.

Along ev­ery jour­ney, we do make many stops.

At each junc­tion, one has to de­cide on which way to turn. We move along the well-trod­den path of fa­mil­iar­ity, but on one less trav­elled, the voice of doubt and re­sis­tance ush­ers us back on to the old route, pre­clud­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties of change.

Such trans­for­ma­tions need not be dra­mat­i­cally life-chang­ing, but presents it­self as lit­tle choices we make ev­ery­day.

In the re­frig­er­a­tor, choco­lates beck­ons over the let­tuce; af­ter a hard day’s work, happy hours over ex­er­cise; in the mall, tak­ing the es­ca­la­tor over the stairs; and so on.

“Hard­core” pa­tient ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als serve as great med­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, but spread be­neath the ve­neers of pre­ven­tive health meas- ures lie the om­nipo­tent mes­sage of change.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom dic­tates that no one can al­ter an­other’s be­hav­iour as any mod­i­fi­ca­tion comes from the in­di­vid­ual’s own de­sire. How­ever, only the key of dis­cov­ery (of the whys and hows) can start the en­gine on the jour­ney to­wards op­ti­mal health.

Which way to go?

Let us pic­ture a few im­ages – the wreck­age of an air dis­as­ter, the de­struc­tion by an earthquake, the af­ter­math of a tsunami, a man­gled body from a shark at­tack ... These sce­nar­ios make dra­matic head­lines.

For the guy on the street, in the city of Kuala Lumpur, the chances of such causes of mor­tal­ity is prob­a­bly close to zero. To be more re­al­is­tic, the chances of sud­den un­timely demise due to road traf­fic ac­ci­dents and in­fec­tions of sorts is one in 20.

What about the other 19 out of 20? They suc­cumb pre­dictably to one or more chronic de­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases, which are di­rectly or in­di­rectly linked to nu­tri­tion and life­style.

A WHO re­port in 2002 stated that the life­time risk of dy­ing of heart dis­ease in the United States as one in two, with can­cer, one in three.

Right here in our own back­yard, the life­time risk for get­ting can­cer is one in five.

Twenty years ago, hy­per­ten­sion was con­sid­ered a dis­ease of the el­derly. A young ex­ec­u­tive with raised blood pres­sure then would have trig­gered alarm bells, com­menc­ing a search for an un­der­ly­ing cause, but over the years, the alarm bell has rung once too of­ten.

To­day, the in­ci­dence of hy­per­ten­sion and di­a­betes have dou­bled and is en­croach­ing upon our youth.

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