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Nurturing a strong heart

Dr. Victor Ti / Khmer Times Share:
A plastinated human heart on display in Amsterdam. Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer worldwide and doctors fear a renewed epidemic of heart problems in 20 to 30 years’ time as a new generation of overweight and obese youngsters reaches middle age. Reuters

The heart has always been perceived as something of extraordinary importance in the human psyche since time immemorial. The word ‘heart’ has always been used interchangeably to mean different things of crucial importance though the difference in their meanings may be worlds apart. Everybody knows the heart as a pumping organ. In Asia, the word ‘heart’ is often used synonymously with the mind or psyche. In the context of relative position, it is used to mean the epicentre of something, or simply ‘occupying the central position’.

Indeed, the heart is so important that its unique shape is universally adopted as the archetypal symbol of LOVE – the awesome emotion that drives a man crazy to do something really positive, or the complete opposite. Such is the importance of our heart in our powerful subconscious mind.

As important as it is, the sad reality is: Heart attack is the No.1 cause of death in increasing number of countries all over the world, especially the more developed ones.

When a country becomes developed, it will effectively scale down the number of people dying of infectious diseases like tuberculosis and gastroenteritis. However, the number of people suffering from heart diseases increases and becomes the top killer of the country. This is a sad reality.

Thus, modernisation is not really all good. It has its perils, too. Generally, modernisation poses a real risk to our heart. Why is this so? What is going wrong?

Simple. Firstly, technological advancement creates affluence. When men become affluent, they tend to develop bad habits of eating and living disastrously. They eat far too much of tasty but unhealthy foods that are laden with ‘poisons’ to their body, especially to their heart. Too much of sweet sugar and high calorie foods makes them fat and more likely to die of a heart attack.

Many people learn to like animal-based foods that are almost always high in cholesterol. These foods, such as meat, internal organs and seafood gain popularity because of their taste, or is it the ‘5-star’ branding. Thus, they become expensive and are affordable more to the rich and famous.

Cholesterol is one of the 5 ‘bad guys’ responsible for causing the clogging of arteries of our heart leading to heart attack and often, instant death.

I am highlighting this fact here with the very hope that the rich and famous are prompted to look at these foods from a more realistic health-inclusive perspective and unlearn their unfavourable liking towards these foods. Hopefully, they will live healthier and longer to enjoy more of their hard earned wealth and fame.

Perhaps the trick lies in influencing the way our mind perceives the food. We can consciously put a ‘HEART HAZARD’ label to these foods so that whenever we think about these foods, the ‘HEART HAZARD’ label flashes brightly and repeatedly in our mind to shift our temptation to aversion.

Secondly, affluent people tend to become physically inactive and mentally overstressed. Their wealth enables them to employ people to do things for them. Thus, they tend to sit around far too long. Lately, it has been confirmed that sedentary lifestyle or ‘sitting disease’ kills more than any other causes of death.

We should all be physically active. Bear in mind that whatever that is given to us, shall be taken back by the Creator, if we don’t use them. Regular exercise helps to protect our heart. Ten thousand steps of walking per day is recommended. It is advisable to do aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc. in order to strengthen our hearts and remain healthy.

The pace of modernisation over the past 50 years is far too fast and far too deadly. A cavemen’s lifestyle of continuous trekking across hill terrains of natural green environment and eating raw veggies and fruits with high protective vitamin C, carotene, and flavonoids is perhaps far healthier. The modern men’s lifestyle of sitting all day long, having endless stressful meetings within concrete walls and eating predominantly high cholesterol animal-based foods and highly processed chemically adulterated ‘human-ready-feeds’ are certainly hazardous to health.

Salt has long been known to contribute towards heart failure and high blood pressure. High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of heart attack. Most of us are eating 9 to 12 grams of salt per day. This is far more than the recommended daily human salt consumption of only 5 grams. It should be pointed out that for several million years, our ancestors ate less than 0.25 grams of salt per day.

My recent successful crusade against excessive salt consumption convinced me that instituting change towards better health may not be as difficult as commonly perceived. Really, it is a matter of just changing our mindset. Mentally re-label the salty foods from our usual perception of ‘tasty foods’ with a flashing ‘HEALTH HAZARD’ label. If we keep reminding ourselves that something is hazardous to our health, our increasing awareness and belief shall somehow change our behaviour towards such foods. Our mind shall perceive them differently, changing our craving to aversion of such foods.

Other measures that we should seriously look at are:

Quit smoking! Cigarette smoking breaks the inner lining of arteries leading to build up of fatty plugs that narrow our arteries and eventually increases our risk of getting heart diseases.

Excessive alcohol consumption causes shrinkage of our arteries and weakening of our heart muscles. Thus, cutting down alcohol consumption is good for health.

Resting and sleeping are essential for good health. Research has shown that people who sleep less than six hours a day are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. All these add risk to the likelihood of having a heart attack. We should have sufficient sleep. So, sleep your way to good health.

Truly, we are largely what we eat and how we live our life.

My next column will be on ‘The angel named Pain’.

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 and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected] Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977

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