SINGAPORE- It is never too late to start taking care of one's health and making lifestyle changes - such as eating healthier, exercising regularly and not smoking. Doing so can go a long way in preventing many diseases.
The Straits Times looks at some tips on how to lead a healthier life, based on a discussion of the issue at a health webinar on Wednesday (Nov 25) organised by The Straits Times and moderated by ST's senior health correspondent Salma Khalik. The webinar was sponsored by Prudential.
Q: What is the best way to maintain joint health as we age, especially in the knees?
A: It would be ideal if people can avoid injury, especially when they are younger. When young people sustain sports injuries, for instance, it predisposes them to future joint problems.
For those with joint pains, knee strengthening exercises - such as resistance and load bearing exercises - would offer a lot of help.
One thing to look out for is weight. When people put on too much weight, they tend to exercise less, their muscles get weaker, and they start to experience joint degeneration. Keeping muscles strong is also important. For instance, the kneecap is actually not connected to anything and freely floating. It's the muscles that hold and stabilise the knee.
Q: Will exposing young children to long hours of screen time harm their vision?
A: There's quite a lot of evidence that near work screen reading actually worsens myopia. But there are a few ways to mitigate this. One is to let children go out into the open where there is greenery. Some research in the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health has shown that if you go out sufficiently to sunlit green areas, it actually reduces your risk of myopia, especially in younger people.
Another way is to get children to take frequent rests from reading. Every 20 minutes, they should look up for 20 seconds at something 20m away.
Q: Is it necessary to go for a full health check annually? What screenings are relevant for the different age groups?
A: Yes, it is a good practice, especially for older people. A narrow set of screenings is recommended, such as for high blood pressure, diabetes and to check one's weight.
For the different cancers, there are also specific recommendations. Generally, screening should be done for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.
For older people, it's also important to do functional testing, such as hearing and sight because some of these impairments may come very slowly without people realising it. This would create additional problems like social isolation due to the inability to participate in normal social activities. The inability to engage socially and cognitively could lead to an earlier onset of dementia.