2000 calories..that’s what an average-sized man requires in one day. I found this interesting video and it helps explain why there is so much obesity around.
In recent months, there has been a renewed initiative by most governments to make it costlier to light up a cigarette. In Australia, not only has excise duties increased, cigarettes can only be sold at designated areas and, since December 2011, they have to come in plain packaging, forcing all cigarette manufacturers to present their goods in khaki boxes with shrunken logos and a graphic health message.
The argument whether increasing taxes do significantly reduce the incidence of smoking has been with us for ages. Some have not been convinced, but irrefutable data has just been released which showed that in the US, when President Obama signed the tax hike — the biggest to take effect in his first term — on his 16th day in office, reversing two vetoes by the previous President Bush (causing the federal cigarette tax to jump from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack on April 1, 2009) the net result was, as reported by USA Today, a historic drop in smoking, especially among teens, poor people and those dependent on government health insurance.
Most impressively, about 3 million fewer people smoked last year than in 2009, despite a larger population, according to surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These data are most certainly going to spur more countries to implement this form of social engineering via taxation, what with the economic recession resulting in declining revenues for the tax-man.
However, while most of us acknowledge the health hazards of smoking, increasing taxes may lead to newer problems. Increased smuggling, tax evasion, counterfeiting are challenges that law enforcement agencies have to handle effectively so that the ultimate objective is achieved. The tendency for smokers to downgrade to cigars (not necessarily more cost-efficient!) or cheaper brands will not reduce the incidence of smoking. Hence the necessity of concurrent health education campaigns.
The last-mentioned is an often under-estimated weapon, particularly when the stand of most cigarette companies is “We don’t build our business on persuading people to smoke or trying to stop people from quitting. We believe that if you want to quit, you should.”
The food pyramid traditionally epitomised what a person should be eating in order to be healthy. In recent months, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) announced it had scrapped the famous food pyramid and replaced it with a plate as a way of conceptualizing what one should be eating to be in good health.
In the beginning, first version of the food pyramid (above diagram) came out in 1992. With carbohydrates such as bread and spaghetti occupying a band along the base, it gave far less space to fruits and vegetables. It also suggested eating fats “sparingly,” which nutritional experts said ignored the benefits of foods with healthier forms of fat.
Now, after 2 decades, the USDA has introduced the food-plate, because it felt that the pyramid was confusing (“people ate out of a plate, not a pyramid”). The new plate specifies: fruits and vegetables should make up half the diet, with vegetables taking up a majority of the half. Grains and proteins (meat and fish, for example) should occupy the other half, with grains taking up a majority of that half.
No sooner as the announcement of the food-plate came, critics such as the the Harvard School of Public Health condemned it as being too simple and not sufficient to educate the public to make the right choices. Enter the Healthy Eating Plate.
Basically, Harvard’s plate has more specifics:
- devote half the plate to fruit and vegetables, with more veggies than fruit. Potatoes are a no-no.
- adding “whole” to the grain section, recommending we NOT choose refined grains like white rice and white bread, all in favor of brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta.
- adding “healthy’ to the “protein” part of the plate, which means opting for fish, poultry, beans and nuts, limiting red meat and avoiding bacon, cold cuts and processed meats entirely.
- recommending a glass of water, tea or coffee (with very little sugar) rather than a glass of milk.
Have Harvard got it right? Seems to me food, like fashion, is continually evolving, so should we follow the crowd and remain trendy?
You can download a copy of the new Harvard Healthy Eating Plate here.
Over my 36 years of life as a doctor, many elderly patients have confided on what they would have done if they were to live their lives all over again. Most of them have since passed on but I recall some of their convictions and values of life.
Moderation No matter their background or habits, living one’s life in moderation seemed to be an oft-frequented advice. The ability to stop short from that last helping to satiate one’s hunger pangs, restraining oneself from that one more tipple ‘ for the road’, even not over-exercising…these actions seemed to accentuate the values of moderation.
Living Life to the Fullest Being aware that life on this planet is finite and waking up in the morning with the attitude that it was the first day of the remainder of one’s life have led many to live their lives as if there was no tomorrow, with maximum passion. The terminally ill were fully aware of this and it was never too late to concentrate on what were most important in life to them.
Passing to the Next Generation Many of the patients regretted not having kids. When their time was up, they were aware that money and property left behind would soon be forgotten. Time spent with sons and daughters and grandchildren, passing on life’s experiences, form an important legacy which is important and will long be remembered by the succeeding generations. How often have you heard the phrase “Grandpa used to tell me….”?
Integrity This, together with being dependable, are important attributes which make ordinary men stand out above all others. In today’s world where chasing the dollar is the name of the game, we need more honest people who will earn an honest day’s wage.
Being Sincere Again, this was an important attribute that many wished they had. They realised that if they were true to themselves and to others and that there was no hidden agenda, they would gain the respect of others and, more importantly, have no personal regrets.
Laughing More I’m saving this for last for several reasons. This was the most common advice given and it has been scientifically proven that laughter stimulates the production of several beneficial hormones, including endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Laughter is indeed the best medicine and can confer permanent physiological and psychological benefits.
After listening to these life values over the years, I have incorporated some of them myself. Maybe you would want to consider it too..
- Things My Grandma Taught Me — and How I Live By Those Lessons Today! (chicagonow.com)
- Living Better – Laughter is the Best Medicine (pinerest.wordpress.com)
- Laughter Will Always Be The Best Medicine (And The Cheapest Too) (bobsproductreview.wordpress.com)
When it comes to finding out which doctor or hospital is the best for one’s needs, many are quite at a loss. In fact, I’ve been asked this question many times. Here are some pointers:
- Look for a hospital with a good safety record as well as those possessing a recognised accreditation standard (such hospitals voluntarily undergo screening by a recognised review body, such as the JCI, in order to provide services of a certain minimum quality).
- Find out from your doctor where he sends his relatives to. What’s good enough for a doctor is usually a stamp of approval. Why, even nurses in the hospital may be able to suggest the right doctor if one cares to ask.
- Look for a doctor who’s busy. Sure, it means long waiting times, but this might be worth it in the long run.
- Some health department websites do provide statistics on how many specific operations are done in a year and what the complication rates are. This way one can opt for the best hospitals for a particular procedure. Here’s a website that provides info of the best hospitals in the US, for instance - click here.
- At the end of the day, its important that you click with the doctor – a good doctor-patient relationship is extremely important and contributes a long way to a good outcome..
- How to Choose a Doctor (healthadel.com)
Of all the items in a shopping mall, perhaps the one with the shortest shelf life is probably computers and smart phones., if only because IT is advancing so rapidly. Even so, a big bug these products have is in the fragility of their hard disc. Anyone who has handled PCs,Macs and lap-tops, for instance, would have encountered one problem or another with their hard-disc drives.
So its not surprising then there is a distinct trend to move away from these solid fragile drives. Enter Google’s Chrome operating system unveiled last week and installed into Samsung and Acer computers. There’s no hard drives because all data is stored in online servers in cyberspace, in “clouds” so to speak. Would this mean the death of hard disc drives?
There are now close to 6,000 consumer health apps, according to a review published in March by mobihealthnews, which reports on the mobile health industry, and more are being added every day. Many are free, or cost $1 to $10 to download.
I came across some interesting apps : there’s one that will estimate one’s blood alcohol concentration just in case you’re contemplating driving home from the pub.
And just in case you think your eyes are playing tricks, just download this app to test your vision: Eye Chart Pro.
- Don’t Look Now, Your Hard Drive’s Dead (foxnews.com)
..so said the headlines in a British newspaper, the Telegraph here. The paper was commenting on a study published last week which showed that those who consume as little as a quarter of a tablet of the over-the-counter aspirin pill reduced their chances of getting cancer of the large bowel, stomach and lungs.
So taken up by this finding, The New York Times, in an article today offered an explanantion of how aspirin prevents cancer : inflammation may play a role in cancer, and aspirin blocks the synthesis of prostaglandins, which are mediators of inflammation, and may affect early tumor promotion.
Good news like this unfortunately may not make everybody happy. The pharma companies, for one, will not relish this as aspirin is a very inexpensive drug to produce and, not being covered by a patent, will not bring in much profits ( it only costs a heart patient USD 4 for a year’s supply of aspirin, compared with USD 2000 to keep him on cholesterol medications).
In fact, 3 decades ago, the medical fraternity were singing praises about it –about how aspirin prevented heart attacks and strokes - to the extent that healthy doctors were taking it ‘just in case’ an illness were to strike them.There were calls then to even include aspirin in the community water supply so that people would benefit.
So how come this humble drug has not made that much a headway since it holds so much promise? The answer lies in the presence of a notorious and potentially dangerous side-effect: bleeding in the stomach and/or the brain. This can occur in susceptible individuals sometimes months after commencing it and it is often difficult for doctors to anticipate who will get them.
My advice is, despite aspirin being an over-the-counter medication not requiring a doctor’s prescription, its continuous usage necessitates one consulting a doctor about the potential risks. Caveat emptor!
- Aspirin timeline (telegraph.co.uk)
Some readers of this blog asked what they can do to prevent a stroke from hitting them. Plenty! A very recent research study just released in the British Medical Journal by 4 authors, one of whom is a Malaysian classmate of mine who now works in the UK, reveals 4 things that people can do to reduce the chances of getting a stroke by half.
The study, conducted in England involving 20,000 people over 11 years, showed that they could reduce the chances of getting stroke by 50% if they did all the following life-style measures:
- not smoking
- being physically active
- limiting their alcohol intake to not more than 14 units a week
- fruit and vegetable intake of at least five servings a day.
Apart from the above, it is well-known that the presence of the following risk-factors also predispose to stroke: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart-beats), heart disease and certain blood diseases which cause clotting.
One does need to realise, however, that some risk-factors cannot be changed or eliminated. Try changing your age (the chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55), sex (more common in men), your relatives( your stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke) or the fact that you have had a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, or warning strokes)!
The whole idea of getting away from stroke is to eliminate as many of the above risk-factors as possible and to lead a healthy lifestyle.
See my related article “Mending A Stroke In Time”.
- HealthWatch: New Blood Thinning Drug (newyork.cbslocal.com)