Lifestyle-related diseases like cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, lung diseases caused by smoking and several other prevalent medical problems, are killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos annually.
Many who have these diseases and are still lucky to be alive have to contend with many limitations in their physical activities. Some may even be permanently disabled at the prime of their lives due to a stroke, heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disease like emphysema and different types of advanced cancer. The cost of keeping them alive imposes a huge toll and burden on the patients, their families and the government.
Despite advances in modern medicine, treating lifestyle-related diseases—when complications have set in already—remains a frustrating challenge to clinicians. No amount of breakthrough medicine can cure a stage 4 cancer, or a markedly enlarged failing heart which hardly beats, or lungs which have been literally destroyed by many years of smoking.
The best way to slay the multiheaded dragon, which lifestyle diseases are like, is to address its primary cause—an unhealthy lifestyle.
Modern society is filled with temptations conducive to an unhealthy lifestyle. Transfat-laden fast-food fare, salt-rich instant foods and seasonings, remote controls and fancy devices promoting a sedentary state, long working and commuting hours leaving no time for exercise, nerve-wrecking and adrenaline-surging pressures at work and at home, and the deceivingly calming effect of tobacco smoke—all these byproducts of modern living define what an unhealthy lifestyle is.
Insidiously, this kind of lifestyle ruins one’s health without one realizing it, until people unwittingly trapped in it get the shock of their lives when told by their attending physician that they have cancer, or serious heart disease, or lungs which can hardly supply oxygen and blow off carbon dioxide. In many instances, it’s too late already and beyond cure.
We need champions and advocates of a healthy lifestyle in our midst to constantly remind us of its value and to prevent many potentially serious diseases before they maim or kill us. These health advocates are exemplars who walk the talk in promoting not only a healthy lifestyle but also health-promoting behavior impacting society. They’re successful in changing the mindset of the public they serve and this change in mindset makes these people realize that their long-term health outcome depends to a major extent on the kind of lifestyle they choose to live with.
When H&L (Health & Lifestyle) magazine was born 12 years ago, one of its main missions was to encourage doctors, other healthcare professionals, and health organizations and agencies to serve as models of a healthy lifestyle. Two years ago, the medical advisory board of the magazine—comprised of who’s who in Philippine medicine—decided to recognize individuals, institutions, government and nongovernmental organizations, media entities and celebrities, and others who have effectively carried out programs that promote a specific aspect of a healthy lifestyle, which may include diet and proper nutrition, exercise and fitness, smoking cessation, relaxation and stress control, proper hygiene and mindset resetting to encourage positive health-promoting and health-seeking behaviors.
We salute our four major awardees, our healthy lifestyle exemplars for this 2nd edition of the awards—Dr. Melecia A. Velmonte, Engr. Emerito L. Rojas, the Philippine Center for Diabetes Education (PCDE), Inc., and the Food and Nutrition Institute (FNRI). We also recognize four others with Plaques of Commendation for their lofty health programs—Dr. Teofredo Esguerra, Dr. Ida M. Tiongco, the College of Medicine-University of the Philippines Manila, and Unilab Active Health (ULAH).
The strong commercialization pushing for products and services in modern society is truly a major barrier towards a healthy lifestyle. The power of advertising branding has even put gloss on some unhealthy lifestyle practices as “guiltless alternative lifestyle.”
More than ever, we need healthy lifestyle exemplars in our society. May their tribe increase.
RAFAEL R. CASTILLO, MD
March 2015 Health and Lifestyle