Have you visited the doctor?” asked my nervous father, as I suffered from a cruel cold. We were seated in his office in Tandalianwala in undivided Punjab in erstwhile India in 1930.
When I maintained a guilty silence he counselled me, “The best asset you have is good health. Money comes and goes. Opportunities come, but so do adversaries. With good health, you can always seek riches and opportunities. With a sound body, there is always a future.” Over the decades, I have pondered over his advice and learnt some lessons of my own too.
It is important to take action on the early symptoms of any health issue. In 2002, my voice would get hoarse at times. The family doctor immediately referred me to an oncologist. Cancerous cells were getting hold of my voice box. The doctors were apprehensive that they may have to remove it. However, they were able to treat me with radiation and save my voice. In health matters, a stitch in time can literally save nine.
Try to select a doctor who does not merely treat the symptoms with some pills, but also studies the underlying health pattern. It is useful to get the best medical attention that is possible. Going to the best specialists ensures that you access the latest medical developments through them. Now, medical services are becoming increasingly pricey. Senior citizens do not enjoy free medical services in developing countries like India. However, many hospitals and top medical practioners do provide some services ex-gratia.
Having identified a good doctor, it is important to maintain faith in him and be patient. As we get older, our bodies too age. They take longer to respond to treatment. It is important to go through the prescribed programme, rather than be impatient and change doctors or medicines hastily. Give nature and time a chance to heal.
Irrespective of doctors and medicines, it is important to keep a positive attitude when you fall ill. This is as important as the medicines, if not more. A patient must want to recover. He must want to live. And, he should look forward to enjoying life even after a morale crippling ailment like cancer.
However, good health in the later years is not automatic. The design of the human body is brilliant divine engineering. However, one has to nurture the body for sound health and performance in later years. I follow a five-point plan.
Firstly, however, repetitive it may sound, it is best to eschew tobacco-related products like cigarettes. Smoking has a severe impact on the heart and lungs. Second, it is important to undertake some physical activity or daily exercise. As one gets older, even a morning walk suffices to energise the muscles and tissues.
Next, live by moderation. Whether it’s food or fun, one must practice restraint. The spicy Punjabi “samosas” may be delectable. Nevertheless, one must know when to stop the next bite.
Fourth, the adage, “Early to bed and early to rise,” is a prudent policy. I try to get to bed by 10pm every night, so that I can awaken by 5.30am. By 8am, I am shaved and ready to take on the day and spend four hours in my office.
Finally, one must be tranquil when confronted with setbacks. One must genuinely “keep cool!” Negative emotions, loss of temper and anger can create avoidable blood pressure issues. Whatever the calamity, things fall in place after a good night’s sleep. Good times do not last forever, nor do the bad times.
Thus, good health in old age cannot be taken for granted. It has to be planned for. It involves being vigilant, getting the best medical attention, enjoying life, but also being spartan and saying no to the second helping of an exotic Tiramisu dessert.
(The writer is a Mumbai-based 95-year-old former corporate executive.)