Living Longer, Living Better

In the course of our 60-year journey, it has become apparent that the vast majority of people value their health and their relationships with loved ones above all else. To live our best lives for as long as we can, for both ourselves and the people we love, we asked three resident healthcare professionals for their advice on how we can actively plan to live longer and better.

DR CHARIS KUM, Resident Physician, Health Screening Centre
I like to tell my patients that health screening is an investment in your health. It is an effective avenue to screen for potential health issues, and get on top of them. We do not get to decide when our life ends, but we do get to decide the quality of it.

Please ensure that you do your screenings at recommended intervals, and discuss what diagnostic tests are required with your doctor.

1. Schedule regular opportunities for self-care. This could be going for exercise classes, feeding yourself with high quality organic food or even making sure that you get enough sleep every night. Tending to your mental and emotional health reduces burnout and anxiety. You should also prioritise your physical health and schedule an annual health screening with your doctor for regular check-ins on your health status.

2. Choose nutrient-rich, colourful foods. Studies have shown that the healthiest diets are plant-based (Mediterranean, flexitarian and so on), which involves choosing to eat nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables over processed foods, red meats and so on. Eat colourful foods as they have many nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I would also encourage you to start looking at nutritional labels so that you know and understand what we are feeding our bodies. Often times, many foods branded as ‘healthy’ are not.

3. Get on board with vaccinations. Studies have shown that the healthiest diets are plant-based For the regular adult, annual vaccines like influenza can reduce the severity of the disease. Other important vaccines are pneumococcal, MMR (mumps, measles and rubella), chicken pox and Hepatitis B. I would also encourage girls between the ages of 18 to 26 years old to get cervical cancer vaccines. Please see your doctor to assess your suitability for the various vaccines available.

4. Reframe and redefine exercise. For most of us, engaging in exercise is somewhat rare as we are often too busy. I would encourage you to move a little bit, often. This can be as simple as taking the stairs at work, walking to lunch and stopping one or two bus or train stops before your intended stop and walking the rest of the way. This will combat the frequent excuse I hear – “I’ve no time for exercise, doctor.” I encourage you to engage in at least 30 minutes of activity at least four or five times per week. If you track your steps/activity with a tracker (good for you!), you should aim for 10,000 steps per day.

5. Pick up a new skill. This could be as simple as learning to cook (and prepare healthy meals for work lunches? Win-win!), setting aside time to meditate or do yoga, destressing while doing pottery, or even learning a new language. Challenging ourselves and stretching our capacity for learning will help keep us cognitively agile and combat dementia.

ADWIN HO, Physiotherapist, Mount Alvernia Hospital Rehabilitation Centre
Regular exercise adds life to years and not just years to life. It improves aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility and balance. This works to increase cardiovascular fitness, build stronger bones, reduce cancer risk, control blood sugars, improve mental health and promote weight loss. All these benefits help to reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, which are precursors to serious health conditions like cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

If you face barriers that prevent you from taking part in an exercise programme, seek professional help. A physiotherapist can help identify your barriers to exercise and suggest ways to overcome them, build your confidence and set realistic fitness goals with you. The end result? A healthier and fitter life!

1. Start slow. If this is your first time exercising in a long while and/or returning to exercise post injury, it is important to start at a level that is suitable for you and gradually work your way up. This prevents injuries from occurring and keeps you in optimum shape!

2. Be consistent. Always plan your exercise routine and how it fits into your schedule! As the saying goes; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Having a fixed exercise schedule not only helps to ensure you set aside time for exercise, it also helps to cultivate a habit!

3. Set realistic goals. Aiming to run under 10 minutes for 2.4km in one month’s time? Great! But if you have not run in years, it is very unlikely you will be able to achieve this timing. Setting realistic and attainable goals will keep you motivated!

4. Consult the doctor. If you have any pre-existing health condition(s), i.e. cardiac, metabolic, musculoskeletal and so on, it is essential that you seek your doctor’s advice before you start getting more active to ensure you are fit to take part in any physical activity.

5. Enjoy your exercise. Last but not least, always find an exercise programme or a sport that you enjoy! It also helps if you can find an exercise buddy who can embark on this fitness journey with you. This will keep you going for the long term!

ROSE GOH, Senior Manager, Clinical Pastoral Care, Mount Alvernia Hospital
To be truly healthy, you must focus on the five dimensions of the human person – mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and social. Whenever one dimension is neglected, the overall health of a person is affected.

To embrace a healthier lifestyle, a well balanced and holistic approach is integral. I urge you to take positive steps towards enhancing your mental and emotional health, so that you can look forward to living longer and living better.

1. Positive Thinking – According to research from the University of Southern California, the mind thinks an average of 70,000 thoughts a day and most of the thoughts are repetitive. An increased awareness of what goes inside our minds and our thinking patterns allows us to be proactive in channeling our thoughts towards what is beneficial for our well-being.

2. Embrace Trusted Relationships – Building and strengthening fulfilling relationships with family and friends allow us to form a support network to share our joys and challenges in life.

3. Active Living – Exercise is a great tool for stress management and mood lifting. There are different forms of exercises catering to individual preferences. Regular exercise work wonders for our emotional and mental wellbeing.

4. Continual Learning – Keeping our minds active with lifelong learning is a great way to boost our self-esteem and confidence. It also aids us in our personal and spiritual growth.

5. Enjoy “Me Time” – Having our own personal space to acknowledge the importance of self allows us to get in touch with our innermost being. It enables us to be attuned to ourselves and prioritise what matters most.

The above five tips reflect one of our core values of being committed to building life-giving relationships with all, which is PEACE!

Health Screening Centre
Tel: +65 6347 6215

Rehabilitation Centre
Tel: +65 6347 6203

Clinical Pastoral Care
Tel: +65 6347 6688

This article is taken from our My Alvernia Magazine Issue #44. Click here to read the issue on our website or on Magzter.