Sunday, September 13, 2015

Self Preservation

How often have we seen a personal crisis ruining life? A young man just managing to settle down in life suffers a heart attack! He now faces a prolonged recovery and loses his job. Medical expenses coupled with a loss of income push him into a financial crisis. A young woman juggling her job and family life suffers an accident. A slow recovery means she cannot look after her children. All of us dread a personal crisis but what do we do to prevent it? We must think about self preservation. We must take precautions to avert a potential crisis!

An accident is top on the list. Accidents can occur in a variety of places. They can occur on the road, at home, at work or when travelling. The most common and the most dreaded are road accidents. The road conditions in many developing countries are pathetic and accidents occur rampantly. Yet I see few people thinking about prevention. Wearing a helmet is a simple basic precaution which will save a person from a potentially lethal or paralysing head injury. It is the difference between getting up and walking away from an accident versus an injury which may  lead to permanent disability and handicap if not death. The same applies to wearing a seat belt in a car. Seemingly simple, easy and effective precautions and yet many of us don't do it! Why? Because we don't think about life preservation untill it's too late. Following road rules (like using an indicator or not cutting lanes), avoiding rash driving and speeding, stopping at signals, keeping the vehicle well maintained and regularly serviced go a long way in accident prevention. Talking on the phone while riding a bike or driving a car is another recipe for a catastrophe! What about accidents at home? In the kitchen, be careful with the cooking gas! Old malfunctioning pressure cookers can burst, hurriedly used sharp knives can cut fingers and hot utensils and boiling oil/water can burn. The other danger zone at home is the bathroom. Make sure the bathroom floor is non slippery. There should be support handles for old people to get up. Beware of sharp shelf edges which could injure if one falls.  Don't climb on a chair to reach for a high shelf or clean the fan, use a stable ladder. The same rules apply for the work place or when travelling. We must be extra careful when travelling. An accident in a foreign land can be particularly nasty as we are helpless and often end up with less than ideal medical care.

The next is a medical crisis. We cannot control all the factors that lead to illness! But we can definitely control some of them. Young people get so busy with work and family that they don't have time for health preservation. The modern motto is to work hard now and enjoy the fruits after retirement. But reality is quite the opposite. By the time they retire,  people are bogged down with so many medical problems that their old age is nothing more than suffering, pain, doctors visits and a long list of medicines. Little does one realise that the efforts to achieve a healthy old age need to start when one is young. The idea of an investment which will pay returns in the future appeals to all but they are unable to apply the same logic to health. And yet, the truth is that investing in health remains the most profitable proposition. What factors can one control? Most critical is to stay away from addicting substances like cigarettes, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. These substances guarantee a life of suffering and a miserable old age. Beyond that, a healthy lifestyle boils down to two main factors - diet and exercise. I have written a number of articles on diet and exercise. Interested readers can access them on my blog - A good diet is about good quality foodstuffs and portion control. We must educate ourselves about which food is good for us. We ought to consume more protein and fibre (vegetables and fruits) and less carbohydrates and fats. We need to differentiate between good carbohydrates (chapati) versus not so good carbohydrates (rice) versus bad carbohydrates (potato, bread, maida, cake, jam, biscuits, cold drinks, sugar, mithai, ice cream, bakery products, chocolates and sweets). Stay away from bad carbohydrates. They are poor quality foodstuff. Portion control remains the key to weight reduction. Amount of food to be consumed in each meal should be decided before we start to eat. Eat only small amounts of food for lunch and dinner and compensate by having healthy snacks in between. A heavy meal neutralises the benefit achieved from a long period of starvation or a session of exercise. We must eat slowly to feel satiety with seemingly small quantities of food. Make it a habit to read the ingredients label on food packets to look for hidden sugar. As a thumb rule, food cooked at home will always be healthier than eating out. Be careful when eating outdoors or when travelling as chances of ending up with an upset tummy and loose motions are high. For exercise, do activities that you enjoy! There are no set rules. Choices are plenty from walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, going to the gym or doing yoga. Remember that the only bad workout is the one that didn't happen. Aim to do some exercise for at least half hour, 5 times a week. Ideally one needs to exercise for an hour every day. Today people lead stressful lives, eat poorly, avoid exercise and buy medical insurance. The smart choice would be to work towards health and not ever need insurance.
The last aspect of illness prevention is timely screening for silent diseases and treatment of medical problems. Problems like blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease may not result in any symptoms for many years. An early diagnosis is crucial for preventing permanent damage. So everyone must get themselves screened for these illness' on a regular basis. It does not end with screening. One needs to to take proper treatment of his/her illness. For hypertensive patients, blood pressure should be controlled. For diabetes, blood sugars should be controlled. A diabetic patient must own a home blood sugar testing machine and must check blood sugars every week. Timely and regular intake of medicine coupled with regular testing and doctor's follow up is essential. 

A mention must be made here about the weekend warrior. These are the people who indulge in contact sports like football only on the weekends. Such sports require a high level of physical fitness which can come only with vigorous daily exercise. Those who don't exercise have weak muscles which offer poor protection to the joints. Hence the weekend warrior is much more prone to injury to the shoulder, wrist, knee or ankle than the physically fit person. Those who don't exercise daily are better off avoiding weekend sports.

Self preservation is an awareness that must be cultivated in the mind. A constant vigil will reduce the chances of a potential tragedy. Simply put it is the difference between happiness and suffering. The choice is really ours to make. Is it worth riding a bike for thrills or spending all your time at work or gorging on meals till your shirt buttons pop? We ought to rely on ourselves to look after our health rather than medical insurance ...... prevention will always remain better than cure!!