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Look forward to a stronger, healthier you in 2020 with these health hacks

Maintaining your overall health is just as important as keeping respiratory diseases at bay. Gleneagles Hospital doctors advise these simple health hacks to ensure that you achieve your health goals for the year

Take simple steps to achieve your health goals by the end of 2020. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
Take simple steps to achieve your health goals by the end of 2020. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

Pace yourself in the gym


Pace yourself when working out to avoid over-straining.

According to a World Health Organisation study in 2018, one in three Singaporeans does not get enough physical activity.

If you fall into this inactive group and intend to make exercise part of your regular routine, Gleneagles Hospital orthopaedic surgeon Lim Yi-Jia has this advice: Listen to your body.

Dr Lim says he sees many patients with new year resolutions of keeping fit but do too much exercise within a short period of time. These people have also not been exercising for many years, in some cases as long as 20 to 30 years. Over-exercising can lead to strains or injuries on the body, often affecting the shoulders, back and knees, when people do not keep a good posture and push themselves too hard while training in the gym.

For those who are starting to exercise, he suggests doing low-intensity light exercises to see how the body responds after it. If you run or do light exercises, target to reach only 50 to 70 per cent of your maximum target heart rate.

He also recommends, when first starting out, to break your exercise into 10- to 15-minute slots so that you do not injure yourself, and to allow the body to get used to exercising. Instead of exercising for a continuous one hour every day, you can aim to achieve 60 to 90 minutes of exercise for the whole week.

Take a simple blood test


Reduce calorie intake and have a balanced diet to minimise the risk of getting fatty liver disease.

Hepatitis B remains the most common cause of liver disease in Singapore, says Dr Lui Hock Foong, gastroenterologist at Gleneagles Hospital. Due to sedentary and stress-inducing lifestyle in Singapore and the excessive food we eat, fatty liver is a condition that is getting more common.

Fatty liver refers to the excess deposits of fat in the liver. Simply put, there are two types of fatty liver: "Harmless" and "harmful". The "harmful" variety has fat cells injuring the liver cells, causing damage to the liver in the long run. While the liver can repair itself, it may not be able to keep up with the damage caused, which leads to scars forming on the liver. If this continues over time, more scars will develop, leading to a condition called liver cirrhosis, which in turn, can lead to liver cancer and liver failure.

Liver diseases have no symptoms until very late. Therefore, go for a simple blood test to look for liver injury and hepatitis B, and do an ultrasound of the liver to check for fatty liver.

To reduce the chances of getting fatty liver, Dr Lui advises a reduction of calorie intake, have a balanced diet, exercise two to three times a week and do not consume too much alcohol. 

Have a chat with a urologist


Eating red fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

Unlike other organs in the body, the prostate is the only organ that enlarges as a man ages. Urologist Poh Beow Kiong says as one gets older, the certainty of benign prostate enlargement is also higher.

For benign prostate enlargement, the symptoms include increase in the frequency of urination, difficulty in passing urine and urine running in dribbles.

Unfortunately, there is no symptoms for early-stage prostate cancer. The risk of getting prostate cancer is higher for men above 50 and those with a family history of prostate cancer.

With prostate cancer now the third most common cancer for men, Dr Poh advises older men to do a blood test or talk to a urologist once a year, especially when one has any urinary symptoms or a family history of prostate diseases. If there is blood in the urine, it is advisable to consult a urologist as soon as possible as it can be a sign of urological disease.

Surgery or robotic-assisted radical laparoscopic prostatectomy is commonly used to treat most early-stage prostate cancers or prostate enlargement. Patients often return to their normal lives with minimal inconveniences. As the technology of prostate surgery advances, the complication rates after robotic prostate cancer surgery has seen a drastic reduction over the past few years. There is a small risk of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction following the surgery.

To lower your risk of prostate cancer, eat more foods that are rich in phytoestrogens and lycopenes. The former can be found in soy products, while the latter is in red fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, persimmons and red carrots.

Make lifestyle changes


Various reproductive methods and lifestyle interventions can help couples increase the chance of conception.

Regardless of age, women who are planning to start a family or have more children should consider making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, cutting back on drinking and overeating, to increase their chances of conceiving, says Dr Irene Chua, obstetrician and gynaecologist of Gleneagles Hospital.

Pregnancy rate is lower for women in their late 40s because their egg quality deteriorates with age. There is also a higher chance of miscarriage.

For those who have been actively trying to conceive for a year, Dr Chua recommends that the couple undergo more tests to look for underlying problems such as blocked fallopian tubes and quality of sperm. If there is still no success after the problems have been addressed, medication or assisted reproduction methods may be recommended before turning to in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Those who develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy should follow a strict diet of eating more complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, more proteins and vegetables and cutting down on sugar.