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Focus on your future health now

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It’s important that people start investing in their future health now.

It’s sad that heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis are robbing so many of the joys that life can bring.

Often, sufferers wished they had protected their health a whole lot better. Given the chance to wind back the clock, they would certainly have lived life differently.

For the rest of us who still have our health, we would do well to be more mindful and to invest in a lifestyle that ensures long-term health.

Let’s start by watching our diet. Below are relevant recommendations and tips from the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines (MDG).

Go low fat

Limit intake of food high in fats and minimise fats and oils in food preparation.

·Minimise intake of deep-fried foods and organ meat.

·Limit cholesterol-raising coconut oil, santan, ghee and butter, as well as margarines and shortening made from hydrogenated fats.

·Cut back on dishes that use excessive oils and fats (e.g. fried rice, nasi minyak and sambal tumis).

Less sweet

Consume food and beverages low in sugar.

·Cut down on products that have sugar at the top of their ingredient list.

·Replace sweet desserts with healthier options like fruits.

·Choose plain water rather than soft drinks, syrup or cordial.

·Ask for “less sweet” or kurang manis when ordering beverages.

Less salty

Choose and prepare food with less salt and sauces.

·Use natural herbs and condiments (like garlic, onion, curry powder, pepper, lemongrass, vinegar and lemon) to flavour food.

·Choose products labelled as having less salt/sodium.

·If you are already using salty sauces and flavouring condiments (e.g. monosodium glutamate, oyster sauce, belacancincaluk), do not add any more salt.

·Reduce intake of salty foods such as salted fish, salted egg, salted vegetables and high- sodium snacks.

Fibre

Most food with fibre contain antioxidants that help protect against diseases.

·Eat wholegrain or wholemeal products (fortified breakfast cereals, brown rice or whole-wheat spaghetti) at every meal.

·Add beans, barley, oats or lentils to your cooking and baking.

Fruit & veggies

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that help lower the risks of certain diseases

·Eat three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits every day.

·Take fruits with edible peel or edible seeds (guava, pears, apples, prunes and berries) as these are high in fibre.

·Have different coloured fruits and vegetables each time.

Calcium

Milk and milk products are essential for maintaining healthy bones.

·Consume milk and milk products every day.

·Add milk to beverages and breakfast cereals.

·Increase your calcium intake with sardines, ikan bilis and high-calcium vegetables like broccoli, and green and french beans.

Health calls for a total lifestyle concept. So, besides eating right, you’d do well to exercise every day. While you’re at it, why not try quitting the cigarettes and alcohol, too? Your body will thank you for it.

Diseases to watch for

Heart disease and stroke are the No 1 killer disease in Malaysia.

The disease occurs when fatty plaques clog up the arteries and cut off blood flow to the heart or brain. It is estimated that one in every four adult Malaysians die from a heart attack or stroke, succumbing to the combined fatal effects of high cholesterol, a blood clot-forming tendency in the bloodstream, stress and hypertension.

Most people with high blood pressure usually do not experience any symptoms. If untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack or kidney failure. As many as three in every 10 adult Malaysians may have high blood pressure.

Characterised by persistently high blood glucose levels, diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and gangrene of the foot, resulting in leg amputation.

About one in every 10 adult Malaysians may be afflicted with diabetes. It is believed to afflict one in every four people in the 50-64 age group.

Cancer is the No 2 cause of death globally. Nearly 70,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed among Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia between 2003 and 2005, according to a report published by the National Cancer Registry. In Malaysia, breast and colorectal cancers are most common in women and men, respectively.

Osteoporosis robs bone of its density, quality and strength, often resulting in fractures at the hip, wrist and spine. Over one million Malaysians may be at risk of osteoporosis, 80% of which are women. It is estimated that one in three women over the age of 55 suffers from osteoporosis.