The Basics Can Save Your Health

I believe that a physician should set himself as his own perfect example. He should practice what he is preaching to his patients. That being said, would you believe a doctor who would advise you to lose weight or to obtain a normal body mass index (BMI) in order to achieve some cardiovascular benefits if he himself is overtly obese? I guess not. Orrr how would you feel about a doctor giving you a lecture to stop smoking and laying out its numerous complications if you can outright-ly smell his nicotine-loaded breath? Turn off, noh?

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I see patients everyday with different medical cases and I personally don’t or simply prescribe medications. If I can still actually avoid giving medicines, I’d rather not give. In certain medical conditions however such as hypertension and diabetes it’s not enough to medicate these patients. We also give them advises especially during their first few visits in the clinic the non-pharmacology therapeutic approaches or the medical management not involving drugs. Lifestyle and diet modifications are two of the most important non-pharmacologic therapy.

In my practice, lifestyle and diet modifications are not just being laid to those with diabetes, hypertension or what have yous chronic conditions. As a well-individual, prevention of disease occurrence is more important than cure. And I strongly advise to modify lifestyle and diet in order to prevent medical illnesses.

To be totally honest, I was once diagnosed as a case of pre-hypertension. It was detected prior to my post-graduate internship. As a 25-year old physician then, I was astonished to be already a pre-hypertensive, more so because the usual co-morbidity that is diabetes runs strongly in my genetic make-up. I was worked-up intensively and was generally advised by my cardiologist to change my lifestyle and diet. I know right? Diet modification was easy but changing my lifestyle as a physician who would go on most of the time to 36 hours of hospital duties was a struggle. Lack of sleep was the main stressor. After a year of being health conscious, my blood pressure was back to normal. I was very lucky cos my increase in blood pressure was detected early; that I was still in the grey-zone of being normal and hypertensive. If I weren’t screened early and managed accordingly, I might already be hypertensive by now with maintenance medication/s for life.

My basic lifestyle modification involves adequate sleep, moderate exercise or physical activities for most days of the week, not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, aversion from illicit drugs, safe sex practice and positive outlook in life. It’s very easy to follow, e?

Adequate sleep is a minimum of 8 hours but not more than 10. But personally, an 8-hour sleep is already a luxury. I seldom get that sheer pleasure; I am already happy with a 4-6 hours especially during medical training. However, we also have to weigh the productivity factor in relation to the amount of sleep that we get. If we try to rationalize it, by the time you reach the age of 30 you would technically have slept through your entire 10 years if you practice an 8-hour of sleep per day. It’s just right that we become more productive if we get enough rest however too much rest can also lead to poor work performance.

Moderate exercise per day for most days of the week is the ideal healthy physical activity. The strict definition of moderate exercise is 100 steps per minute for 30 minutes. My personal definition of moderate physical activity or exercise is 30-45 minutes of jogging, brisk-walking (for overweight & obese) or aerobics. It should be done during most days of the week and that’s at least 4 times a week or every other day.

Smoking doesn’t define lung cancer. Smoking can be equated to any type of cancers and other chronic medical illnesses. And I don’t have to elaborate on these cos it’s been utmost-ly proven by thousands of medical literatures. It is prudent not to start and stop if you are still. To be totally honest, I was once a smoker and I am happy that I’ve long been tobacco-zilch! Nada! There are actually several reasons why people smoke cigarettes. Peer pressure and oral fixation are the most common reasons especially to those who just smoke a few sticks per day. So, if you smoke 2-3 sticks or at most 5 per day, then just quit smoking cos in reality you’re not yet dependent. Avoid a group of people who smoke and shifting the oral fixation into something healthier like always bringing a bottle of water in hand will be of great help. If smoking leads you to finish at least half pack a day, then I understand if quitting is such an issue. It’s not easy to take off a habit, a bad habit that is. My advise to those who are chain smokers, start lessening your sticks per day until you go zilch too! Not easy, but achievable.

Moderate alcohol consumption or sometimes referred by some as occasional alcoholic beverage drinking is defined strictly as not more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men, non-cumulative. For some laymen, this is quite hard to understand. What I tell my patients is to not drink more than 1 serving per day for women and not more than 2 servings per day for men. And by 1 serving it means a bottle of beer or 1 shot glass or 1 cocktail drink or 1 glass of wine; non-cumulative. & when I say non-cumulative it means that 7 servings can’t be taken in a single day to cover a week.

Say no to illegal drugs. I don’t discriminate users but those drugs are illicit because of the known bad effects. They are known to bring you that high but if that’s the only effect it can bring then they shouldn’t be banned, right? I don’t need to enumerate and elaborate the numerous adverse effects of those drugs but the outright illegality of those substances should alarm all of us.

Safe sex practice. When I started my own medical practice, I was amazed. Yes… Amazed to the common-ism of sexually transmitted infections (STI). We rarely saw such cases in the institution where I trained that when I started seeing these group of patients in crops more frequently, I’ve to reiterate to myself the guidelines to treat them accordingly. Well I guess that most of these cases are seen by private practicing doctors because of the nature of the situation. And for that matter, I now always ask my patient’s sexual practices. Initially, I was a little shy and uncomfortable asking them about it but I felt the need to address the problem. My common advise is to be monogamous… but let’s all be real, monogamy is already obsolete to some. Condom is the next best thing for prevention of most STIs. I am also an advocate with the use of HPV vaccination until the age of 26 for both sexes.

Dharma-ism. I was taught in med school that our approach to treating patients should not be just based on the physical disability but rather wholistic, and I believe that a patient with a positive outlook in life recovers faster from a medical illness. The explanation could be very molecular-biologic; we have hormones and neurotransmitters which control our bodily functions that are affected and partially released by our emotional status, thoughts and aura. The World Health Organization (WHO) even defined health in its broader sense as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

How about diet? My basic diet advise is to follow a hypertensive diet. Why? Because hypertension is easily acquired from all the changes, evolution and madness of our very commercialized diet; fast food and bulk eating now dominate our food industry. Hypertensive diet consists of low fat, low sodium, and high fiber. I personally try or lean more to organic eating now. I enjoy organic eating as much as I enjoy sex, plus it’s much easier to maintain a normal BMI in eating organic. I also shy away from buffet restaurants. You should, too! I really don’t enjoy buffet dining cos the main point of going there is to eat as much as you can for the money you paid… unless maybe it’s an outlet or venue for friendly or family gatherings then I’ll consider. It’s one huge big propaganda, I should say… Pun and redundancy intended. Vegan eating on the other hand which doesn’t work for everyone is also a healthy option. I’ve tried and has been successful for a month… I gave up because I realized that I am a meat-eater by heart. LOL. For me twas a struggle. I don’t give high recommendation to veganism too because of the possible long-term vitamin deficiencies.

So these are my basics to healthy living; These are just suggestions of what I personally do to myself and in my humble opinion they are worth sharing to everyone cos I think everyone deserves to be healthy. It’s a choice. You do what you want to your own body. I think it’s good to end this blog entry by sharing this statement, “An ounce of prevention is better than tons of cure.” :-)

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