Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Life lessons from running long distance

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

I WAS an overweight kid. Growing up, despite my academic achievements or my efforts to be a kind person, “the weight” has always been used against me.

I ended up believing that as an overweight person I could not possibly be athletic, lithe and springy. I believed that one had to be skinny to be a success in life.

Then, I fell in love with running. It started innocently enough. I was writing my PhD thesis and was spending so much time in a chair that it started to have a physical toll on my overall well-being.

I tipped the scale at 100.5kg. Not only did I suffer from bad self-esteem, but I was also feeling sluggish and could not be as productive as I wanted to be to complete the thesis within the scholarship and visa deadline.

I began by taking small steps. I jogged from the college where I was staying to the riverbank, making it past five lamp posts that lined the Brisbane River.

The next day, I made it past another two lamp posts, making a total count of seven lamp posts. I kept going, adding a couple of lamp posts a day, until I could finally jog comfortably along the whole riverbank lining the St Lucia campus.

To cut a long story short, I left Brisbane with a PhD and a determination to run a mara­thon by the time I turned 30. I completed the latter in 2013, at the Penang Bridge International Marathon, a bittersweet experience where I managed to run a full marathon on my thirtieth year on the island of my birth.

Last weekend, I shifted the personal goal post and attempted a 50km run in Genting Sempah, known among runners as the Route 68 Challenge. I signed up for the arduous challenge as I was not getting any faster in my running goals, and with my increasing age, I could feel the kilos sneaking back on, despite my best efforts to keep them at bay. It was a humbling experience, despite a strong start in the first quarter of the race. I got to 43.5km and my body just refused to go any further.

It was my first bitter taste of failure. Despite all the physical and moral support from my many friends who turned up on the day and who have accompanied me during training, I failed to declare myself an ultramarathoner.

I was quite disappointed with myself, of course. I wanted to prove that a big woman, one who does not look like an average runner; can still be a runner.

I spent the past five months training for this particular marathon and invested money, time and effort only to be rushed to the medi­cal assistance tent in the end.

My only souvenirs from the race were chafing on my body, horrible sunburn and a badly bruised ego. After several good, long cries however, I sought inspiration from stories of other Malaysians, fellow runners and especially those who completed the 121st Boston Marathon over the weekend, to pick myself up and run another day.

Case in point: our celebrated cyclist, Azizulhasni Awang, trained hard for eight years to become world champion.

Countless Malaysians tried many times before qualifying for a spot at the elite and exclusive Boston Marathon, and many more Malaysians work hard every day to achieve dreams no one thought possible.

The key here is we dared to dream – regardless of the challenges we face along the way – and we attempted to make that dream a reality. It would have been worse if we had not dreamt at all. My experience proved that despite the best-laid plans, it can all go to nought; but the same experience has lit a spark in me to try harder.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t agree that Malaysians can only be successful when we leave the country. Those of us who are here matter; we all have to collectively strive for the best versions of ourselves, challenging ourselves with professional and personal goals every year.

I find my solace, my joy and my challenge in running long distances. Through my six years of running, I have experienced countless instances of street harassment, been body-shamed, told off for being too slow, had injuries, lost weight and gained weight.

But I am still running. It can be seen as a metaphor for life itself, wherein the marathon called life, we only fail when we stop running and we should cross that final finish line as strongly as we can.

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to have officially registered for the Boston Marathon and a fierce advocate of getting girls and women active in the sport, famously said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” I would go a step further and say, “If you want to believe in your own ability, go run a marathon.”


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Shorter stays at emergency unit.

Friday, April 21st, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Health officials here are reviewing standard operating procedures to overcome congestion at the Emergency and Trauma Unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

The move came about after many patients had to remain at the emergency unit for days due to lack of beds at the wards.

Health Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min said they were looking at ways to resolve the problem amid public complaints that patients had to stay in emergency units up to a week at QEH and QEH II here.

He said there were standard operating procedures for emergency wards where a patient needed to be treated and transferred to a ward within a certain time frame.

“But the number of patients has increased, and this may have contributed to the problem,” he said after an excellence-in-service award presentation ceremony here yesterday.

Dr Chen said congestion at emergency wards was also a result of unsystematic arrangements.

Sometimes patients who were not categorised as an emergency were treated or warded at emergency wards, he said.

“We are trying to get clinics in hospitals to open later so that patients can get the medical attention they need instead of heading straight to emergency,” he said.

He said patients could also make use of cluster hospitals in their areas.

Cluster hospitals complement each other in terms of medical facilities, technology and specialists, and involve the sharing of medical specialists and improvement of medical facilities.

Speaking at the event, Dr Chen urged all medical practitioners to provide quality services to patients.

He said various incentives had been given to medical staff to boost their work ethics and offer better services to patients.

On recent reports of poor discipline among housemen, including absenteeism, Dr Chen said a contractual agreement had been introduced for housemen.

“We now have contracts for those wanting to work as housemen and those who do not perform according to expectation will not have their contracts renewed,” he said.

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A healthy lifestyle isn’t expensive

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Not many people are taking the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) seriously, and this is worrying the Malaysian Dietitians’ Association.

“The facts are clear: the prevalence of NCDs is alarming, including cardiovascular diseases,” said association council member Ng Kar Foo.

“It has already been illustrated in the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2015.”

He added that not many people took NCDs seriously because the health effects or consequences were not immediate.

“Also, many people feel that leading a healthy lifestyle is expensive and time-consuming,” he added.

However, Kar Foo and fellow council member Ng Yee Voon aim to share that this is not true, in their talks at the upcoming FitForLife KL 2017 fair.

“We would like to share with the public that leading a healthy lifestyle is inexpensive and easy to do.

“Perhaps what we need is some creativity in sharing practical tips to address this issue during the talk,” Kar Foo said, adding that he would try to do this by injecting some humour into his presentation this Sunday.

He and Yee Voon will be speaking on the same topic, with Yee Voon taking a slot on Saturday.
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Regular health screening crucial to detect early signs of cancers

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The public has been advised to go for regular health screening to detect early signs of colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

“It is crucial to check our health on a regular basis as early detention could give the patient a better chance to get proper treatment,” said Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu Hospital resident consultant, general, minimal access, bariatric & metabolic surgeon Dr Chan Khan Wei.

He emphasised the importance of regular medical check-ups during a public health talk held at the hospital, recently. The talk, held in conjunction with the launch of colorectal and pancreatic cancers packages priced at RM99 and RM299 respectively, was co-organised with Junior Chamber International (JCI) Tanjung Aru.

It was aimed at instilling greater public awareness and understanding of colorectal and pancreatic cancers. Some 122 people attended the talk.

Dr Chan discussed the advancement of colorectal cancer surgery while resident consultant, general & hepatobiliary surgeon Dr Mohd Sharifudin Sharif focused on the risks related to pancreatic cancer and dietitian Kimberley Ong delved into the misconceptions or myths related to cancer nutrition.


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Eateries shut in health safety blitz

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

SANDAKAN: Rats, cockroaches and swarms of houseflies were among the infestations discovered during spot-checks on the town’s eateries.

As a result, three restaurants, all specialising in seafood, have been ordered to close immediately, said Sandakan health officer Dr Johari Awang Besar.

Eight other diners were put on public hygiene watch – three ordered to clean up their premises and another five served with compound notices.

The tough measures followed a major public health blitz involving 29 officers from the district health office, and six from Sandakan Municipal Council.

In total, 14 food premises were inspected during the special operation carried out across the town on Monday, said Dr Johari.

Three restaurant operators who were served with closure orders had been given two weeks to clean up the premises.

“They will be allowed to reopen for business if we are satisfied that they have complied with hygiene regulations,” he said.

Rats, cockcroaches and houseflies were found inside some of the restaurants checked during the operation.


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Don’t kid with kidney failure.

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

The number of dialysis patients will more than double by 2040 if chronic kidney disease is not properly addressed. As part of the remedy, the Government plans to boost organ transplants in the country.

THE signs aren’t obvious in the beginning. And that is why some call it a silent disease.

But it isn’t a time to keep quiet about chronic kidney disease (CKD), which strikes nine out of every 100 Malaysians.

The overall number of patients – from stage one to five – is currently between two and three million, but the numbers are expected to rise.

Most patients in stage five, known as end stage renal disease or kidney failure, depend on dialysis to carry on with life.

But while there are 40,000 dialysis patients now, the number is projected to more than double to a whopping 106,249 in 2040 if no effective remedies are in place, based on a recent study.

The large number of dialysis patients has made Malaysia the top seventh country with the highest dialysis treatment rate in the world, based on the study titled “Forecasting the Incidence and Prevalence of Patients with End-Stage Renal Disease in Malaysia up to the Year 2040”.

However, many kidney patients in Malaysia are still hoping for the alternative solution – a kidney transplant.

In fact, most of the 20,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list are in need of kidneys.

The problem is that while organ pledges remain low, the number of medical professionals, including surgeons and supporting staff, that can conduct transplants are less than ideal.

Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai says there are plans to increase the capacity of medical staff to improve the level of transplants.

Calling it the ideal solution for kidney patients, he says transplants are also cheaper in the long run compared to dialysis.

“The main challenge when it comes to transplants is the need to increase the number of specialists, including transplant surgeons, pathologists and other supporting medical professionals.

“We are looking into roping in foreign and local experts to train more specialists in this area so that more transplants can be conducted and in a safe way too,” he told Sunday Star recently.

Dr Jeyaindran points out that while only 1% of the Malaysian population had pledged their organs after death, it was still the “greatest gift” a person can offer.

“As such, we need to strengthen the mechanism to support such a gift of life to another in need,” he adds.

One plan is to double the number of “organ retrieval” teams, or teams of medical staff in charge of retrieving organs from those who have pledged their organs upon death.

Currently, Malaysia only has two of such dedicated teams – one from Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) and another from Selayang Hospital.

Dr Jeyaindran explains that increasing the number of teams would help make the process of transplantation more efficient.

He says the limited number of staff available to retrieve organs presents a challenge, especially when the deceased donor is located far away.

“Such teams have to go all the way there and the retrieval can be at odd hours.

“We want to double the number of such teams so that they can reach more locations quickly and cover wider areas like

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Depression: Poor conditions common in mental health care facilities.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
PETALING JAYA: Made to shower naked in the open, sleep in a room without curtains, ignored, stigmatised and shunned. Such is the condition of some patients who suffer from mental health problems in Malaysia.

International Medical University, consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, Dr Philip George said he witnessed this at one of the prominent mental health clinics in Malaysia.

“They renamed the clinic in hopes of trying to remove the stigma revolving around the place, not the disease, but the place.

“But if you go there and see the way people are treated,  it is heartbreaking and unfair to them. They are subject to ill-treatment simply because they have a mental disorder and that should never be the case,” he said during a Mental Health Seminar in Damansara.

He added that despite multiple attempts by many psychologists and psychiatrists to bring about improvements in mental health treatment in Malaysia, it seemed to fail every time.

“Sometime back, I had brought down my mentor from Australia here, and during his visit, I took him to the men’s psych ward, shortly after we walked in, he had to run out to vomit!. That is how bad things are for patients with mental health problems here.

“I had even asked my students ‘what if you needed to be admitted there, or send your parents or family there for treatment? all of them would not stay there for more than an hour,” he said adding that he had made a lot of attempts to push for better facilities.

He added that instead of acknowledging the attempts, institutes like Institut Jantung Negara and Institut Respiratory Negara are being built and improved.

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Depression: 40% of Malaysians will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Four out of every 10 Malaysians will fall victim to some form of mental health issue in the course of their lives and psychologists believe that the numbers will continue to rise.

International Medical University, consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, Dr Philip George said that numbers are often downplayed due to the stigma that surrounds the condition.

He added that the seriousness and the prevalence of issues like depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues should be accepted and acknowledged first in order to be treated.

“This is not something that only attacks the poor, weak and lonely. It happens to anyone and the World Bank had predicted that 340mil people will suffer from depression by 2020.

“Though the National Health and Morbidity survey says only 1.8% of the Malaysian population are depressed, we think there is a flaw and believe that at least 10% of Malaysians suffer from mental health issues.

“The difference is Asians do not talk about their problems. Unlike Caucasians, asians do not have the words for emotions and that is a huge barrier,” he said adding that  many people who walk among us are at least facing mild depression.

“They consider having an emotional problem to be a weakness, so instead they attribute it to a physical problem and highlight things like their inability to sleep, back pain, headache and constant fatigue.

He added that the National Institute of Health had found that depression to be a most disabling disease as it is not tangible and people find it hard to emphatise.

“It is not something one can snap out of, just like how people cannot snap out of diabetes or a stroke.

“However, with enough help and support, almost 90% of the patients can be restored to normal. Yes, they may have a relapse as their emotions are more sensitive, but they can be cured with the right help,” he added.

Supporting his statement was consultant psychiatrist, Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj who added that by 2030, depression will be the most disabling disease as it will have the highest number of days lost due to a disability.

He explained that a study done in the United States found that 30 to 40% of absenteeism at work is due to unexplained somatic complaints like body ache, lack of sleep, and lethargy.

“No studies have been done in Malaysia but a primary care study in Thailand about five years ago showed up to 30% were psychosomatic complaints.

“Many go unreported because firstly the difficulty in diagnosing depression, followed by the inability of people to recognise the symptoms of depression themselves,” he said adding that many who are in fact depressed are unwilling and embarrassed to come forward for treatment.


‘See a doctor at once if you have symptoms’.

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

KOTA BARU: Anyone having flu-like symptoms must seek imme­diate treatment following the detection of the H5N1 avian flu virus in a village near here.

Confirming that no one has been infected with the highly patho­genic virus as of Thursday evening, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said those with such symptoms or respiratory infection must seek treatment at once.

“This is especially if they have had contact with dead birds or fowl,” he added.

Among the symptoms are a fever exceeding 38°C, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and lethargy.

“A directive has been issued to all health facilities to be on high alert for influenza-like illnesses and respiratory infections to enable early detection,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“Health personnel have also been told to strictly observe infection control procedures,” Dr Noor Hisham added.

Five samples from fowl carcasses found in Kampung Pulau Tebu tested positive for H5N1 on Monday.

He also advised those involved in the slaughtering, processing and selling of poultry to observe proper handling practices.

“They should wear masks covering the mouth and nose, besides wearing gloves, apron and waterproof rubber boots. They must wash their hands with soap and clean water,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the prevention and control measures were in accordance with the Avian Influen­za Management Guidelines drawn up in 2004.

He said they were checking areas within a 300m radius of Kampung Pulau Tebu for H5N1.

As of Thursday, health authorities have examined 235 villagers in 58 households, as well as 21 health and 45 veterinary personnel.
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Kelantan acts to stop spread of avian flu.

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

KOTA BARU: Kelantan has taken immediate measures, including setting up road blocks, to contain H5N1 avian flu outbreak after three cases were recorded in one village.

State agriculture committee chairman Datuk Che Abdullah Mat said police help was sought to stop the trafficking of fowl within a one kilometre radius of Kampung Pulau Tebu where 15 kampung chickens were found dead recently.

“The Veterinary Services Department had since culled 170 avians including chicken, ducks and birds, and destroyed 100 eggs in the affected village,” he said.

He said culling activities were carried out on March 6.

“Just in case animal lovers try to smuggle the avians out of the vicinity to avoid culling, we have requested police to set up road blocks.

“This is a serious matter. We can’t take risks that would take a toll on public health and the poultry industry,” he said, adding Kelantan recorded the last avian flu outbreak in 2004.

Che Abdullah also confirmed that none of the chicken farms in the state were affected so far, therefore poultry in the state were safe for consumption.

“The infection is contained in one kampung. The three positive cases were from neighbouring houses,” he said.

“The authorities are still in the process of tracing the source of infection,” he told newsmen at his office on Wednesday.

Che Abdullah said they have activated the state-level animal disease control action committee comprising representatives from various departments and agencies including police, local government, community leaders, State Veterinary Services Department, and Orang Asli Department.

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