By Koon Yew Yin
I am writing this piece which should be of interest to everyone as we all want to live a healthy life. I think I am qualified to write this topic because I am nearly 88 years old. Moreover, as far as I can remember, I have hardly any experience of aches and pains or any sickness in the last 20 or more years.
My inherited blood disease:
I have inherited a blood disease called hyperlipoproteinemia from my mother. It is a condition characterised by higher than normal levels of LDL cholesterol. My body produces a lot more cholesterol than any normal people.
My mother died at the age of 36 when I was 10 years old. My elder brother who also inherited the same blood disease, died at 42 years. My younger sister also inherited the same disease and survived a heart attack.
In 1983 when I was 50 years old, I had difficulty breathing and suffered a mild heart attack. My younger sister and I had a heart bypass surgery done in Harley Street Clinic, London. At that time there were only 2 hospitals in the world that could perform the surgery. One was Harley Street Clinic, London and the other was Mayo Clinic in USA which had just invented the heart/lung machine.
Unfortunately, my sister died about 3 years after her heart operation.
Many people including Cardiologist Dr Lee Boon Chye and heart surgeon Dr Ko Chung Sen of Ipoh Specialist Hospital wanted to know how I could live so long after my heart bypass surgery in 1983, especially when I had hyperlipoproteinemia.
After my surgery, my cardiologist told me that my arteries would be blocked again in a few years, unless I changed my lifestyle and diet. At the time there was no medicine to lower the production of cholesterol. Lovastatin was not discovered yet. Basically, he advised me to keep my body weight down. I must not overeat, avoid sugar and eat less carbs like rice. Avoid oily food, eat more fish and vegetables.
Only eat to live and not live to eat.
When I wake up in the morning, I drink 2 glasses of water, eat half a pineapple and have a cup of coffee. I will drink another 1 or 2 more glasses of water before lunchtime. I usually drink more water than I really require. As a result, I urinate quite frequently. I also do not have constipation.
What did a geriatrician say?
About a year ago, a geriatrician who knew my health history, asked me how I could live so long. After I told him about my daily diet, he said that I stay healthy because I was frequently eating pineapple, which has a lot of medicinal value.
According to the American Heart Association, to maintain good physical health everyone should walk at least a total of 30 minutes every day. Since my daily work requires using the computer, I do not sit down longer than an hour every one session. I get out of my seat and walk about for a few minutes frequently to improve blood circulation and reduce stress.
At my age, I cannot do much physical exercise. I found an easy way to put exercise on me. I have a masseur who comes to my house to give me 1.5 hours of full body massage, 3 times a week.
Too much worry can shorten one’s life. I have developed a way to stop worrying, as it is often useless. Whenever I have a problem, I have to think positively to find a solution. When I cannot find a solution, I will tell myself that time will change everything. After having lived for so long, I accept human weaknesses and forgive those who irritate me. Why should I feel angry just because someone misbehaves? I have only a few close friends and they do not judge me. After I have met so many different kinds of people and seen so many problems in life, I have come to the conclusion that worrying does not fix things and some things just cannot be fixed.
Deep breathing can reduce stress
Statistics show that stress is a major cause for cancer. I have developed a habit of taking a few deep breaths whenever I am stressed. I can do it at any time, while sitting, driving or waiting for something. I always take a few deep breaths before I go to sleep.
Sleep is very important
I always try to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. After my lunch, I have a nap for about an hour. If I have difficulty sleeping, I will drink a glass of wine or any alcohol. Alcohol can also improve blood circulation and reduce stress.
Control your blood pressure
Whenever you see a doctor, he will first check your blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart attack or stroke, and I have to constantly check and control my blood pressure to prevent them. Currently I have to take medications every day to control my blood pressure that is slightly too high.
Take care of your mental health
I always keep my mind occupied by reading, writing, using the computer, managing my share investment or watching TV. This will slow down the loss of memory and avoid Alzheimers.
Although I have completely retired from executive work, I am now a full-time equity investor. I am enjoying what I do.
I take a short holiday for a change of environment frequently.
I must also mention my wife’s important contribution. She takes care of my daily needs without which I would not have lived so long. I love my wife; I love myself and people in general. I enjoy all the good things in life.
I also love music because it keeps me calm and enriches my life. I think it also helps keep my blood pressure down.
Try to be happy
My ultimate aim in life is happiness. My wife and all the people close to me can vouch that I am always happy. Whenever I see poor people, I feel so sad. I always try to create happiness. I must always remember that when I die, I cannot take any money with me. That is why I have been spending my money to help people especially poor and needy students. Up till now, I have given to about 300 poor students. I concentrate my charity on helping needy students complete their tertiary education. I believe education is the best way to help poor families.
Contentment is the key to happiness.
You are in full control of your life. Every day you can choose either to be happy or sad. One very easy way to be happy is to appreciate what you already have and acknowledge that you do not need any more. Always count your blessings. Contentment is the key to happiness. I do not compare myself to other people because I do not know their background well enough to make judgements. I am content with who I am as a unique individual.
Remember our ultimate aim in life is happiness. Studies have shown that happy people can live longer.