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Archive for November, 2012

Health is Wealth

Heredity deals the cards; environment plays the hand.

 – Charles L. Brewer

 I watched in growing alarm as I heard my mother answering ‘yes’ to all the questions that the doctor was asking her.  Yet another so-called specialist she had wanted to see; however my apathy as a disinterested observer was fast disappearing.  So far she had answered positive to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and hyperthyroidism – a whole gamut of killer diseases that were slowly extinguishing the life out of her.  What she was telling wasn’t new to my ears, but however, this time I could hear the warning bells ringing insistently.

As a child, I always remembered her being a hypochondriac.  Her constant fears about her health have always been an issue of concern and frustration for everyone in the family. However in the recent years, there was nothing to laugh at.

Over the last decade or so she has been busy keeping the various medical diagnostic centres in our hometown running given the excessive number of scans, x-rays and blood tests she has been subjected to.  Every new quack she sees runs his or her own battery of tests on her – I am only thankful that she hasn’t got any radiation-related ailments to add to her list.

I hardly do much with my life but still people are usually amazed at the various things I do, but then I tell them that they haven’t met my mother.  She was one of the most impressive ladies I have known who just found time for everything in her life.  But today I see this dynamic woman felled to the ground, barely mobile, with her health slowly corroded by all these illnesses.  Her diet consists of different coloured pills which she can no longer skip especially if she needs to lead a relatively normal life.

This, my friends, has been a wakeup call for me.  Having had a hypochondriac parent, I had always been dismissive of my own health issues, downplaying everything.  I never took anything seriously until recently when I realised that my gene pool might dish up some nasty surprises along the way.

When I look around, I notice that most women, especially of migrant background are in the same boat as me – their own health being secondary in importance.  These are women you can never fault when it comes to looking after the health of their families, but when it comes to them, all caution is thrown to the winds.  The sad truth is we have never been raised to be proactive about our health.

After I moved to Horsham, I found myself to be extremely low in vitamin D and again dismissed it as something to do with my prior stay in Sweden.  However I later discovered that almost one in three migrant women of Indian origin I have met in Victoria have the same condition.  Studies are still being conducted to assess causality between this so called sunshine vitamin and depression; however my point is vitamin D deficiency is still taken very lightly among migrant women.

Usually with migration, there occurs a change not just to one’s lifestyle but also to one’s food and dietary habits.  However the food acculturation aspect of migration takes a backseat and is constantly overlooked leading to the onset of nutrition related ailments.  One only has to look at the increasing statistics of diabetes Type 2 and bowel cancer in this group over the recent years and my point is easily made.  Couple this with hereditary diseases and all of a sudden you are playing Russian roulette with your life.

 I have to say I have been quite lucky to be in a workplace that places a lot of importance on the health and well-being of its staff.  Even though I am still a long way towards switching to a healthier life-style, I am very much aware of my health than before.  I cannot but stress on the importance of screening tests and preventive measures that could go a long way in making one’s life a lot easier, especially the older you get.

Lastly, we cannot afford to fall sick, can we?  As our lives get more and more hectic, crowded by technological noise, our communities are becoming quite insular.  Long gone are the days when neighbours would bring you chicken soup when u had a cold.  Now you are lucky if your neighbours notice that you are still alive.  Even friends and well-wishers with best intentions can only look after us for a day or two when we fall sick.  I have seen things get quite dicey for migrant families when people end up being hospitalised, especially with no backup support.

So perhaps, there is some truth in the old saying “Prevention is better than cure” and we should heed it for a healthier and hassle-free life.

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