Goodbye, Battling for Health Community (though I’ll still hang around)

March 10, 2011 by  

If you wonder why you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because I have other fish to fry. Specifically, I have started a new job. And although, this is not strictly a “health” topic, lifestyle is closely linked to health. So bear with me and let me explain the pros and cons of this lifestyle change.

There are several reasons why I decided to give up freelancing and joined the ranks of the employed.


Employment brings regular income for now, and some security (retirement plans, savings etc.) for old age.


While freelancing gave me freedom and flexibility, I wasn’t truly happy. In fact, there were times when I was depressed and felt useless. This is not unusual as unemployment is one of the major barriers to happiness.

In the film “Social Network”, Napster founder Sean Parker was asked about his job and he declared he was a “self-employed entrepreneur.” “In other words, you are unemployed,” was the girl’s conclusion.

There were times when I felt “unemployed” during my freelancing days (and so did many people, including family members and friends) and this was probably the main cause of my unhappiness. Let us hope that my new job brings contentment.

Now comes the cons

Time constraints

There is now less time for free time and leisurely pursuits. This is one of the reasons why I am giving up regular posting for Battling for Health. It’s a choice between blog writing and jogging. I hope you understand why I chose the latter.


I would expect that there will be times when this job will generate high levels of stress. I just hope that I can practice what I’ve been preaching all these time in this blog about stress management.

I love this blog

I’ve been writing for this blog since May 2008. That is more than 2.5 years ago, the last year as the main/sole writer for this site. In this fast-paced digital era, when work and projects and working relationships change within seconds, 2.5 years is almost a lifetime. But I love this blog and I enjoyed and learned a lot from it. I hope you enjoyed and learned a lot from it, too. Thank you for all your support all these years!

My promise

  • ·         I won’t be here often but I will be around, be it with an occasional blog post or a stimulating discussion in the Battling for Health forum.
  • ·         I will continue to live a healthy life and hope you will do the same. I chose jogging over writing, remember? If I ever manage that marathon run, I’ll let you know.
  • ·         I will continue to cheer on those battling the monster diseases.

Hang on there and live healthy, happy and well.

Diet vs. drugs in diabetes management

September 27, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

When it comes to the management of type 2 diabetes, the appropriate diet may actually “trump up” medications.

Researchers in New Zealand looked at 94 high-risk diabetes patients which were split into 2 groups. All patients received optimal medical care for diabetes but one group received regular one-to-one dietary advice from a dietician. The advice did not focus on a strict diabetic diet but was customized to the needs of each individual patient based on socio-economic and cultural circumstances.

The study lasted for 6 months and at the end of the study period, patients who received dietary advice showed significant improvements in terms of glycemic control. Some of the patients in this group were even able to reduce their doses of hypoglycemic drugs or insulin.

According to lead author Kirstin Coppell:

“The patients in our study were already under intensive drug treatment to optimise their glycaemic control, which remained unsatisfactory. We found that by also following carefully tailored dietary advice they could significantly improve this control.”

In addition, the group who had dietary advice also experienced reduction in body weight and abdominal fat, with an average weight loss of 2.1 kg and 3 cm waistline reduction.

Over the years, anti-diabetic drugs have been developed to help patients with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels. But with time, the efficacy of these medications wanes as insulin resistance increases. No matter how intensive the drug therapy maybe, control of blood sugar levels eventually deteriorates.

“Since the widespread introduction of anti-diabetic drugs, the traditional focus on diet and lifestyle in managing diabetes has faded into the background. Our findings suggest that there needs to be a renewed focus on these elements if we want to improve diabetes outcomes.”

The study, aptly called Lifestyle Over and Above Drugs in Diabetes (LOADD), shows that lifestyle changes in terms of modifying eating habits compliment the effect of medications and bring more benefits to the diabetes patient. However, making the step towards this change and sticking to it is not an easy task. It is thus necessary to have the guidance of health professionals such as a dietician as well as a strong support group to sustain this lifestyle.

Diabetes epidemic spreads to China

March 31, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Economic development comes with a price – health problems. And nowhere is this more evident than in China. The economy is booming, lifestyles are rapidly changing and the health care system cannot keep up with the health problems that come with these.

The diabetes epidemic is not only restricted to the West. China is quickly catching up. According to the latest reports, 1in 10 Chinese adults (10%9 have type 2 diabetes, and another 16% of the population are in danger of developing the disease. This rate has surpassed Germany and Canada and is close to the US rate of 11%. But Chinas has a population of 1.3 billion and a staggering 92 million of these people are diabetic.

According to David Whiting, an epidemiologist at the International Diabetes Federation, who was not involved in the study

“The change is happening very rapidly both in terms of their economy and in terms of their health effects. The rate of increase is much faster than we’ve seen in Europe and in the U.S.”

And it doesn’t just stop there. Chronic diseases such as hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders are also on the rise. This phenomenon is nothing new and has been observed in populations and ethnic groups who were previously healthy and have very little genetic  predisposition to these disease. And the reason lies in the lifestyle change that comes with economic development. Some of these changes are:

Diet. The traditional Chinese diet was very healthy. The present generation prefers processed food to natural produce, food which are full of salt, sugar, and fat. Tea, the traditional drink, has been replaced by soda and other sweetened drinks.

According to Dr.  Huang Jun, a cardiovascular professor at the Jiangsu People’s Hospital in Nanjing:

As people eat more high-calorie and processed foods combined with less exercise, we see an increase of diabetes patients.”

Sedentary living. Able-bodied Chinese are leaving the farms and rural areas to seek a “better” life in the city. City life, however, means less physical exercise.

Air pollution. Big Chinese cities are among the most polluted in the world and air pollution has been closely linked to cardiovascular disease.

Stress. Life in China has become more fast-paced and more stressful.

Dr. Huang Jun continues:

Whereas 20 years ago, people took naps during the work week, people are now faced with the stress of making more money to support a family and a buy a house.”

The situation is not unique to China and similar health problems are becoming widespread in the Asia-Pacific region, underscoring a need for effective preventive measures in countries of emerging economies.

Cancer, the price of immigration?

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

travel_girlMany people move to the United States to find a better life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out especially when it comes to health. Take for example the Hispanics. According to this study by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine , Hispanics who migrated to the US have a 40% increase of likelihood to develop certain types of cancer. The study looked at more than 300,000 cancer patients included in the Florida Cancer Data system from 1999 to 2001. Data analysis showed that Hispanics in the state have a higher risk to develop cancer compared to those who stayed at home .However, the increase was not homogenously observed among all Hispanics. The highest cancer rates were observed among the Puerto Ricans, followed by the Cubans, while the Mexicans have the least increase.

The researchers hypothesize that a major reason for the increase in cancer rates is the exposure and adoption of the immigrants to less healthy lifestyles with include:

  • Unhealthy diet (e.g. increase consumption of fatty and junk food)
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Increased cigarette smoking

However, the role that better diagnostic services in the US play in this cannot be ruled out.

The lifestyle change hypothesis explains why some Hispanics are more vulnerable than others. The Puerto Ricans were among those who have lived the longest in the US whereas the Mexicans were virtually newcomers.

According to study leader Dr. Paulo Pinheiro

“Mexicans in Florida are very recent arrivals. They have had less exposure to the U.S. environment.”

The Cubans in the US have the most dramatic risk increase compared to those who stayed home. In particular, this group of Hispanics is susceptible to colorectal, endometrial and prostate cancers which might be partly influenced by diet.

The Puerto Ricans are more likely to develop alcohol-related cancers such as cancer of the liver.

Male Hispanics have increased incidence of cigarette-related cancers especially lung cancer whereas female Hispanics have increased incidence of cervical cancer compared to those who did move to the US.

Despite the observed increased rates, Hispanics still fare relatively better compared to non-immigrant Americans in terms of cancer rates.

The Hispanics are not the only immigrants whose health is affected by lifestyle change in the new country. Breast cancer incidence is very low among Asian women but increases in incidence among those who moved to the US.

Can a healthy lifestyle alter your genes and treat your cancer?

May 25, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

dna2 We’ve heard this statement of resignation before: “I can’t do anything about it. It’s in my genes.” Indeed, many diseases have been linked to genetics, including heart disease, mental illness, and cancer. However, this study by researchers at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California suggests that there might be something we can do after all, and that changing our lifestyle for the better can trigger changes in certain genes that otherwise make us predisposed to disease.

The researchers followed up 30 men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer and who decided not to undergo currently available treatments such as removal of the prostate gland, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. However, they opted for a major lifestyle change program which consisted of

eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.

Indeed there were some expected health benefits observed after 3 months of lifestyle change therapy, namely:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved cardiovascular health

However, the researchers found some unexpected but nevertheless beneficial effects in the form of “changes in activity in about 500 genes — including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off…The activity of disease-preventing genes increased while a number of disease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down.”

The researchers also performed prostate biopsies before and after the 3-month therapy and found observable clinical improvement.

It is incredible to see these changes in such as short period of time but of course the study only looked at patients with a type of prostate cancer that is less likely to be aggressive or malignant. However, the study demonstrates the undeniable health benefits that a healthy lifestyle can bring. The lifestyle change therapy is especially relevant to prostate cancer patients who are faced with a lot of uncertainties concerning the early screening tests (e.g. PSA) and treatments available. Many patients tend to opt of the so-called “watchful waiting” management. If this management approach is coupled with a lifestyle change therapy, the chances of beating prostate cancer will considerably increase.

According to lead researcher Dr. Dean Ornish

“‘In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live?’ That’s pretty exciting. The implications of our study are not limited to men with prostate cancer.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.