The case for heartcare
> All those attempts to ensure our ticker goes on ticking happily go to nought if we do not make the effort to move more
THE MARKETING of healthcare to the general public has recently experienced a paradigm shift. Everybody is now changing tactics and addressing healthcare as ‘heartcare’.
Heartcare encompasses all ailments that can impair the functionality of the heart.
Take diabetes, for example, which refers to the body’s inability to respond to or produce insulin, which results in a high blood glucose (sugar) level.
Over time, the condition can damage your blood vessels, as well as the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels.
People with diabetes also tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than those without diabetes.
And among adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke.
Another group of people at risk of developing heart disease are those who suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure.
In fact, hypertensive heart disease is the number one cause of death associated with high blood pressure. It refers to a group of disorders that include heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and left ventricular hypertrophy (excessive thickening of the heart muscle).
Ischemic heart disease, which means that the heart muscle isn’t getting enough blood, is usually the result of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries (coronary artery disease), which impedes blood flow to the heart.
Another potential source of risk for your heart is having a fatty liver.
While most people can understand how the previous two conditions can impact the heart, what effect can an entirely different organ have on it?
Well, the liver produces and feeds many enzymes and hormones that help control other bodily functions.
Imagine if a company’s human resource department failed in its task. Any delay in distributing the salary to its employees, and the whole company goes into chaos.
One of the primary functions of the liver is to store fat. It does this by absorbing glucose from our blood, and turning it into body fat for long-term storage.
But, when the liver stores too much fat, it too breaks down. Too little and it’s not good for overall health, too much and it can be harmful. Those who have a fatty liver are also in danger of developing heart disease.
Instead of focusing on each of these conditions individually, the health industry is now moving to bring them all under one mission, and getting everyone to ‘take care of the heart’.
It makes sense. You also have to make many other careful choices in life, as it all comes back to the heart.
But I think, all these messages on heartcare tend to miss the point.
These days, I see a lot of popular media and advertising trying to sell the idea that you can actually eat your way to a better healthy heart.
Yes, you can stay healthy by not eating junk, following a reasonable diet, and controlling your portions.
You may even be able to do it for a long while, but we are still human. And there is a lot of nice food out there to tempt us.
People may order a non-fat latte with a triple shot of espresso, but add in three packs of sugar. Or have a healthy grilled chicken salad, but covered in a dressing so thick and oily that it is almost a dish in itself.
And don’t even get me started on those new age superfoods, like kale.
Kale the super veg has been the base for all sorts of everyday food, like kale shakes, kale and cheese pie, kale salad.
I have nothing against kale. I think it’s a good healthy vegetable.
And we Asians have been consuming the mighty kale for generations. We just call it kailan, also known as Chinese kale. It’s kind of same but different.
But the danger of thinking we can eat our way to good health is usually that we tend to ignore another far more effective method of improving our heart health – movement!
I use the word ‘movement’ because the word ‘exercise’ is scarier. And let’s face it, most of us would rather eat kale than run on the treadmill.
The trouble with modern living is that people are moving less, and trying to get into the habit of exercising.
But, I’d like to note here that if people actually took the trouble to move more, then they need not pay anything for exercise.
Let’s put it this way. ‘Exercise’ these days more often that not equals some form of outward payment in monetary value like buying a gym membership, or home exercise equipment.
This is something my grandfather and my parents never felt the need for in their day.
When they needed to buy bread, they walked to the shops. Today, you can Uber your bread to you.
I’m just wondering how that helps your heartcare.
Jonathan Tan is currently Club Manager of the Sports Toto Fitness Centre at Berjaya Times Square. He can be contacted at lifestyle. firstname.lastname@example.org.