There are many reasons why some people die so early while others live so long. Malaysia’s current prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed mesmerised many for being the oldest prime minister in the world at ninety-three. Journalists had often asked him, “How do you live to ninety-three and still going strong?” He gave many answers but like many other great masters, he ‘kept’ the best and most important secret.
In my Health and Diseases column, I have been revealing some six million dollar secrets about health from time to time, much to the benefit of many readers. Today, I shall reveal Dr Mahathir’s ‘best kept’ and most important secret of health and longevity that many have failed to realise.
Dr Mahathir cheated death many times along his journey to being ninety-three years of age. He could have died of diphtheria as a young child, lockjaw (tetanus) following a cut, hepatitis B – from an accidental prick during his work as a family doctor – that leads to liver failure or cancer, meningococcal meningitis while performing his pilgrimage in Mecca, influenza and its complications such as a fatal pneumonia during one of his frequent overseas travel, etc.
The truth is, he had many shots of immunity that make him invulnerable to the diseases that could have been fatal somewhere along his journey to ninety-three. Have you ever wondered why the journalists never asked him about these and why he is not revealing them? Journalists generally like digging up sensational news that people are hungry for. Stories about the many vaccines that have been protecting millions of lives, enabling them to live a long and healthy life are literally drowned out by the hunger for sensational news.
Thus, the dry medical facts are left to the few professionals who can ‘spin straws to gold’. Being a professional family physician who strongly believes in the benefits of health education, I naturally slipped into this role. I took up the challenge to decorate and spice up the important dry and dull medical facts into interesting stories by punctuating them with colourful carrots, enticing honey and a bit of ‘opium’ to hook my readers on, all in the interest of promoting good health and longevity. Certainly, this is not an easy task. Nonetheless, the need for health education in a country that is so deprived of it keeps me ‘spinning’.
Do you know that more adults died from certain vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) than motor traffic accidents every year in the United States? Many of us continue to pay a hefty premium yearly to insure ourselves against accidents that occur less frequently than VPDs. However, for most vaccines, we need to pay once or only a few times in our lifetime and they are mostly cheaper than the insurance premium that we have to pay yearly. Yet, numerous people are not having these important shots to prevent the VPDs that kill so many. Sometimes, it makes me feel that doctors should be trained to be better salesmen than insurance agents as far as the promotion of these life-saving vaccines are concerned, so that more lives can be saved.
For many centuries, smallpox devastated mankind. Today, we need not worry about it anymore. We owe it to Edward Jenner for inventing vaccination that contributed towards the eradication of smallpox that killed 300 to 500 million people in the 20th century.
While the rich and famous are after dubious stem cells that cost tens of thousands per treatment, many are conveniently forgetting the dozen of common vaccines that are more than one thousand times cheaper and proven to save and prolong the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This is indeed an awesome irony of mankind that I find hard to understand. Indeed, many are NOT so wise when it comes to the knowledge and life-saving decision to vaccinate themselves with the awesome modern technology that effectively shields them from many severe and fatal diseases.
Today we are lucky to have effective vaccines for many categories of people: Children, travellers, students enrolling abroad, parents, parents-to-be, child-minders, people of advancing age, people with chronic diseases and people of various lifestyles.
I invite you to go through the following checklists of the more essential vaccines currently available and see if there is any that you may have missed out: Influenza (the only yearly jab), tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, chickenpox, human papillomavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type B, typhoid and rabies.
We should know that we can catch VPDs from sex, travelling, certain outdoor activities, food and drinks and even working with animals. Bear in mind that adults are more likely to die from VPDs than children. Ageing increases our risk of infection along with more severe symptoms and complications.
Chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and lung diseases put us at higher risk of infection and disease complications. For some of the diseases that cannot be cured, it is certainly better to prevent them with vaccinations.
Lastly, allow me to give you some words of encouragement. The life-saving shots are not necessarily painful especially now when the injections are given with fine short needles. In addition, some doctors are capable of ‘hypnotising’ you from the pain.
Here is another good news. The vaccine for typhoid that is commonly transmitted by food handlers who may be chronic carriers of the bacteria is now available in oral capsules. Thus, for typhoid, you can now escape the needles.
My next column will be on ‘The Trillion Lives Within Us’.
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases, excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skills in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977