Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Senior citizens getting ready for an early morning exercise session at Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur
Remember those proverbs that our primary school English teacher used to drum into us? "Prevention is better than cure", "A stitch in time saves nine", and "Penny wise, Pound foolish"? Yet how many of us pay heed to these cautionary words of wisdom, especially when it comes to our health?

When we are in our 30s and 40s and enjoying an active lifestyle, we barely give a thought to our health. In our 50s, when the first aches and pain start to surface, we choose to shrug them off as part and parcel of the ageing process. The price to pay for neglecting our health can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical and healthcare expenses later on. I am referring to surgeries, hospitalization, and expensive lifelong prescription drugs.

Certain diseases are associated with the elderly - Alzheimer's, arthritis, osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. But it is a myth, a fallacy to assume that we will be afflicted with these diseases when we age. The physical body will slow down, BUT poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging. It depends on the foundation we have laid in building good health and in the genes we inherit.

Straits Times 11 Oct 2011
Raising awareness is integral to prevention. In Singapore, the Ministry of Health has launched a series of initiatives to encourage people to be responsible for their health. In conjunction with World Mental Health Day (today), the Health Promotion Board is launching the 12-week programme called "Mental First Aid Kit" aimed at reducing the risk of dementia in those aged 50 and above. The programme will run for three years. An estimated 20,000 Singaporeans aged 60 and above have dementia, and the figure is expected to rise to 53,000 by 2020.

Playing Rummy-O at the launch.
Pic: ST
The programme has two parts. The first focuses on educating the elderly about mental well-being and stimulating their minds using role-play and games. The second focuses on cognitive skills. Activities will include learning simple memory improvement techniques, working out sums and sorting objects.

Last week, MOH also launched a health screening programme targeted at the needy elderly. The aim is to detect chronic key ailments, and also test for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer. Screenings for cervical and breast cancer cost $10 and $30 respectively, while the test for colorectal cancer is free. Testing for chronic ailments will cost only $2.
Early screening.
Source: Straits Times

Not only is early screening made more affordable, the programme goes one step further. Results will be automatically sent to a GP nominated by the participant. The GP will then call patients in for a consultation if necessary. This will ensure that everyone with abnormal screening results will have a follow-up with a GP.

Dr Philip Koh, deputy medical director of Healthway Medical Group and a GP participating in the network, said: 'In the initial stages, there are often no signs or symptoms for many chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure. By linking GPs to the community, we can help increase prevention at a primary level and catch these 'silent problems' quickly.'

Also in the works is a software. the Physical Activity Advice Tool. Based on patients' answers to questions, doctors can recommend exercises suitable activities for their patients according to factors such as their age and any pre-existing illnesses.

Check out Health Promotion Board's website for more information on preventive measures to ensure that everyone can enjoy lifelong good health. If you are interested, read the National Physical Activity Guidelines launched in August 2011.

Ultimately, our health lies in our hands. Being aware is not enough. We have to follow up by taking action.

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