Sunday, March 15, 2015

Health is still the best wealth

My March 15, 2015 column.

A good friend of mine recently suffered a heart attack.  Fortunately for him, he did not ignore the symptoms – heaviness in the chest area, pain that vibrated through his left arm – as most reportedly do.  When he felt the pain, he took a cab and brought himself to the emergency room of a nearby hospital where he promptly announced with understandable urgency “I am having a heart attack, please attend to me now.”   The ER doctors slapped an electrocardiogram machine into his body, which automatically confirmed my friend’s suspicions – the lines in the graph were more erratic than a rabbit in heat hopping around like crazy. He was rushed into a special room where they performed an emergency angioplasty on him, barely an hour since he arrived in the hospital.  He has since then made it his mission to explain heart disease, at least initially to friends.  
Up until my friend’s heart attack, I didn’t know angioplasty could be performed at a moment’s notice.  Apparently, most of the major hospitals have the facilities to perform the procedure and already have a ready team on standby for the purpose.  What this tells us is that, heart disease is truly a serious problem in this country and that heart-related medical procedures such as an angioplasty and an open-heart surgery have become quite common.  I think we do not need to highlight the fact that the cost of such medical procedures can be quite prohibitive.  My friend’s bill came to about a million pesos.
My friend has since then embarked on a major lifestyle change.  He has decided to finally follow what his doctors have been urging him to do in the last three decades: eat healthier, exercise regularly, reduce stress, and give up harmful vices such as smoking and excessive drinking.  Hindsight is always 20/20 vision, of course, but my friend has been posting what passes off as commonsensical advice in his Facebook page.  Two that struck me most were “If you do not take care of your body, where are you going to live?” and “If I can only take back the 40 years I spent smoking, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
The latter advice struck home because I was a smoker from the time I was 18 up until about a year ago.  Of course I knew about the serious dangers that nicotine did to the lungs and the rest of the body but as the cliché goes, wisdom is wasted on the young.  I only stopped smoking when I became borderline diabetic and I was warned by my doctor that smoking is one of the leading causes of blindness and amputations among diabetics.  At least I take comfort in the fact that I was strong enough to quit before I had extended coughing spells, unlike someone we all know who is supposed to be the paragon of virtue and monopoly of the truth. 
The past few weeks have been very stressful for most of us in this country, and must be taking its toll on our health.  I figure it would be as good a time as any if we spend this Sunday in some reflection about health and living.  Here then are top five health-related memes that I have seen floating around in social networking sites which we can all imbibe:
The first one seems like good advice because it offers workable options and choices: Less alcohol, more tea; less meat, more vegetables; less salt, more vinegar; less sugar, more fruits; less eating, more chewing; less words, more action; less greed, more giving; less worry, more sleep; less driving, more walking; and less anger, more laughter.
The second is something that many among us work drones must be reminded of everyday:  So many people spend their health gaining wealth and then end up spending all their wealth trying to gain health.
Aesop’s fables always offer an advice or two we can put to good use:  A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken with anxiety.  “If you cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it” is a good rule of thumb at a time when all kinds of gastronomic inventions can be easily had. 
And finally, Mark Twain’s knack for delivering wisdom with simplicity and humor always comes in handy: “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

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