Columns Health

DR PHILIP CHUA: Avoid dying early!

In 2005, a 128-page report from the World Health Organization in Geneva stated that “nearly 400 million people will die from heart diseases, diabetes and other chronic ailments over the next 10 years, but many of those deaths can be prevented by healthier lifestyles and inexpensive medications.” Of the 40 million deaths per year in the world, 28 million would be in developing countries.

WHO director-general Lee Jong Wook commented that “the lives of too many people in the world are being blighted and cut short by chronic diseases. He cited the latest WHO report “to draw attention to the increasing threat from diseases that can be prevented in part by healthier diets and giving up smoking,” writes the Associated Press.

This recent report also was the first “to quantify the economic burden of treating such conditions in individual countries.” China, for instance, will be spending $588 billion in the next ten years, Russia, $303, and India $236, in managing heart disease, diabetes and strokes.

The co-author of the study, Robert Beaglehole, lamented that this epidemic is preventable because “we know what to do, how to do it, and preventions are very cheap,” and yet people die unnecessarily.

The WHO report highlighted the fact that heart-diseases-related mortality is down 70 percent in the United States, England, Australia and Canada in the last 30 years because of effective national prevention policies and campaigns in these industrialized nations that cut the death rates significantly.

Citing Poland’s statistics which showed reduced death rates among young adults by 10 percent in 1990, “in part by making fruits and vegetables more available, and removing subsidies on dairy products, like butter.”

Philippine Statistics

The following tabulation of the Leading Causes of Mortality (Number and Rate per 100,000 Population) in the Philippines will show we are part of this pandemic of preventable deaths.

CAUSES NUMBER RATE* 1. Diseases of the Heart 49,962 69.8 2. Diseases of the Vascular System  38,693 54.1 3. Pneumonia 30,811 43.1 4. Accidents 28,563 39.9 5. Malignant Neoplasm 26,842 37.5 6. Tuberculosis, All Forms 23,056 32.2 7. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases and Allied Condition 11,807 16.5 8. Other Diseases of the Respiratory System 6,961 9.7 9. Diabetes Mellitus 6,749 9.4 10. Nephritis, Nephrotic Syndrome and Nephrosis 6,704 9.4

A major part of our unhealthy lifestyle as a people is our diet of high-saturated fat, high-cholesterol (red meats, processed delis, lard, dairy products), high-carbohydrate, low-fiber foods, and our sedentary life. Filipinos, in general, especially those who can afford, do not seem to care for vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains. It must be our culture. We train our infants and our young children to eat red meats and other high fat foods, believing these proteins are “good for their young body,” so when they grow up, they continue with the same unhealthy “habit” and remain “hooked” to red meats, eggs and other high cholesterol food items.

The fast food chains all around us make matters even worse. Somehow, as parents, we have neglected to put more emphasis on fish, which is actually the superior source of protein, plus the added bonus of an ingredient in fish, Omega-3 fatty acids, the oil that protects the heart, besides the brain. And many of us do not seem to accept the fact that smoking maims and kills, alcohol damages our liver and brain, and that daily physical exercise, besides the low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-carbohydrate and high-fiber diet, is vital for a healthy lifestyle, to maintain good health and well-being.

In the name of love

Some of us may be shortening the life of our children without realizing it, unintentionally, unwittingly, all in the name of love, but nonetheless devastating to them when they reach middle age and beyond. Allowing them to live an unhealthy lifestyle, to be hooked on cigarette, alcohol, soft drinks (which are poison), is loving our children to death.

“Love not our children to death” is the message in my coffee-table book on disease prevention published in the United States and in the Philippines, entitled Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children, which could be previewed on philipSchua.com

Alarming statistics

Obesity in children has doubled the past couple of decades, tripled the past 30 years. If the trend is allowed to continue through our parental neglect, inaction, or indifference, it is conceivable that obesity will quadruple in another ten years. And since obesity increases the risk for diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and other metabolic illnesses, heart attack, stroke, and cancer, longevity would obviously suffer. All the gains mankind has achieved the past six decades through the advances in medical science and technology — preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic – could simply go to waste for this segment of the world population if wisdom does not prevail.

Today, among the affluent people around the world, including those in developing nations, obesity afflicts about 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11, and more alarmingly, about 10 percent of those aged 2 to 5 are obese. Among those between ages 12 and 19, 18 percent are also obese.

Benefits of exercise

The amazing benefits of regular physical exercise, even brisk or moderate walking (not jogging, which injures the joints in our hip, knees, and ankles), protect not only our cardiovascular system but also our brain (lowering the risk for Alzheimer’s). It also reduces our risk for cancer. The most fit animals in the wild are the ones who are physically most active. Those who are caged or who are in captivity are the ones prone to develop diseases like ours.

The Philippines is obviously not immune from these preventable deaths reported by the World Health Organization. It behooves our national, provincial and city governments to implement policies that will help cut down these deaths. Its time we adopted one.

Equally essential, if not more, is for each and everyone of us to make that wise decision, the choice to live a healthier lifestyle.

(Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a decorated recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com)