Blog Posts by Health Xchange

  • 1 in 5 Asians has flat feet issues

    Flat foot is very common in Asians with estimates suggesting that it affects approximately 1 in 5 individuals. (Thinkstock photo)Flat foot is very common in Asians with estimates suggesting that it affects approximately 1 in 5 individuals. (Thinkstock photo

    “Do I have flat feet?” is a common question asked by patients I see at SGH.

    You’ve probably come across or heard about the terms “flat feet” or “pes planus” (to apply the correct medical terminology). These terms are often used by patients, shop assistants and health care professionals, but what do they mean?

    Typically, in a non “flat-footed” individual, the arch of the foot is usually raised off the ground when the person is standing. If the foot arch is low or nonexistent, the person is said to have “flat feet” or sometimes, “fallen arches”.

    Pes planus tends to be a very common condition in the Asian population with estimates suggesting that it occurs in around 1 in 5 individuals.

    How do I know I have flat feet?

    Flat feet can only be truly identified while the individual is standing or walking. When someone with flat feet stands or walks, their inner foot or arch flattens. In addition the foot may roll over to the inner side (this is known as excessive subtalar pronation).

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  • Heart murmurs: What symptoms to watch out for

    Eating healthy and exercising regularly can help minimize your risk of getting abnormal heart murmur. (Thinkstock photo)Eating healthy and exercising regularly can help minimize your risk of getting abnormal heart murmur. (Thinkstock photo)

    A normal heartbeat has two sounds. A heart murmur is the extra rasping, humming or whooshing sound that can be heard in-between. It must be investigated to be sure it’s “innocent”, meaning harmless.

    As opposed to an innocent heart murmur, an abnormal heart murmur may point to a serious underlying heart problem such as damaged heart valves or congenital heart defects like a hole in the heart.

    “Prognosis for abnormal heart murmurs varies according to the underlying heart problem and its severity. It is excellent in patients with otherwise structurally normal hearts and poor in patients with severe underlying valvular or congenital heart defects,” says Dr Peter Ting, Consultant, Department of Cardiology at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

    Related article: 10 superfoods to protect your heart

    What causes a heart murmur?

    The extra or unusual sound characteristic of a heart murmur is due to the faster blood flow through the heart valves and/or

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  • More young smartphone users with neck and hand pain

    Being too engrossed when using your smartphone can cause unawareness of bad posture or doing repeated actions for long durations. (Thinkstock photo)Being too engrossed when using your smartphone can cause unawareness of bad posture or doing repeated actions for long durations. (Thinkstock photo)

    Staying connected via a smartphone or tablet can be a health hazard. Texting or gaming – with the hand and fingers repeatedly making the same actions – on a smart device can put the user at risk of injury. The repetitive action can cause damage, while the way that the device is held – especially for long periods – can also lead to soreness and pain in the wrist, thumbs and fingers.

    Likewise, sitting or standing hunched over a tablet can strain the neck ligaments and muscles. Most people stretch their neck and head forward when reading, watching a film, or typing on a tablet, and if they hold that posture for a long time, micro or very tiny tears can occur in the muscle fibres or tendons.

    “The bad posture occurs when reading a book too, but you are more likely to adjust your posture when you start feeling some strain. With digital media that includes sound and moving pictures, people are usually engrossed to the point of not moving, at least not until the battery dies!” said Dr Darren

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  • Inflamed fatty liver: Non-drinkers also at risk

    Fat build-up in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which ultimately could lead to liver failure. (Thinkstock photo)Fat build-up in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which ultimately could lead to liver failure. (Thinkstock photo)

    Most people with fatty liver have no or minimal symptoms. Fat build-up in the liver is thought to be common, and is associated with certain metabolic disorders such as diabetes. In some cases, it can cause liver inflammation. The condition is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) as the liver inflammation is not related to alcohol intake.

    When NASH becomes severe, resulting in scarring of the liver, it can lead to cirrhosis – a potentially life-threatening liver condition that could progress to liver failure and is associated with internal bleeding and coma.

    Doctors are uncertain why a fatty liver may progress to NASH in people who drink little or no alcohol. However, they suspect that something in the environment could trigger the inflammation, or there may be a genetic predisposition.

    “While the causes of NASH are still unknown, many conditions can increase your risk. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high triglycerides, a type of fat found in the

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  • Blood in urine: Is it always dangerous?

    Drinking sufficient fluids is one way to prevent blood in urine. (Thinkstock photo)Drinking sufficient fluids is one way to prevent blood in urine. (Thinkstock photo)

    It’s almost a natural response – when we see blood, we think something must be wrong. However, blood in urine, termed hematuria by doctors, isn’t always a cause for concern.

    “Blood in urine is one of the most common issues affecting both younger and older patients seen in the urology clinic,” says Dr Nor Azhari Bin Mohd Zam, a consultant with a special interest in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of renal stone disease at the Urology Centre of Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    “In the young, the most common causes are urinary stones or a urinary tract infection (UTI). In older patients, it is more likely to be bladder or kidney cancer, especially if the blood in the urine is painless and the patient has a history of smoking,” he adds.

    Related article: 50 per cent of women experience a UTI at least once in their lifetime. Here’s how to prevent it

    When blood in urine is not serious

    Certain medications including aspirin, heparin or warfarin (a

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  • 1 in 5 colon cancer cases are young adults

    Colorectal cancer tends to arise from polyps that start out as benign or non-cancerous growths. (Thinkstock photo)Colorectal cancer tends to arise from polyps that start out as benign or non-cancerous growths. (Thinkstock photo)

    In Singapore, colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer) continues to be the most common cancer affecting men. It is the second most common for women after breast cancer. It has been overall the most common cancer in Singapore over the last 10 years. It is a cancer that may be prevented or treated if discovered early.

    “Most types of colorectal cancer arise from polyps which start out as benign or non-cancerous growths from the cells lining the inside of the colon or rectum. The change from being benign to becoming cancerous may take years but once a polyp becomes cancerous, it can grow and invade surrounding organs,” says Associate Professor Tang Choong Leong, Head and Senior Consultant from the Department of Colorectal Surgery, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    Colorectal cancer symptoms

    Most cases of early colon cancer hardly present any symptoms. Even during advanced stages, colon cancer can have seemingly benign symptoms:

    • Change in bowel
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  • The flu-like heart infection that can kill

    Viral myocarditis may be a cause of unexplained sudden deaths. (Thinkstock photo)Viral myocarditis may be a cause of unexplained sudden deaths. (Thinkstock photo)

    If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or swollen feet and ankles following a bout of flu or viral infection, you should see a doctor to rule out a potentially fatal heart condition called viral myocarditis.

    People with mild viral myocarditis may feel no symptoms at all or they may experience a heart attack or severe heart failure (dilated cardiomyopathy) as the condition worsens.

    “Viral myocarditis may be the cause for a significant number of unexplained sudden deaths in seemingly healthy young people,” says Associate Professor Lim Chong Hee, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth Group.

    Patients with viral myocarditis may be mistaken as having the flu because of the initial flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue and heart palpitations, adds Assoc Prof Lim, who is also Director of the Heart and Lung Transplant Programme at NHCS.

    Women who get viral myocarditis in their final month

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  • How to improve your IPPT results

    Having strong trunk control is essential for doing pull-ups. (Thinkstock photo)Having strong trunk control is essential for doing pull-ups. (Thinkstock photo)

    If you are like most combat-fit NS men, taking the annual IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test) could mean one of two things to you. For those who pride themselves in staying fit, it is an easy way to earn extra bucks through the ‘incentive’, ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ awards. But if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, you probably dread the IPPT as failing it means having to attend up to 20 sessions of remedial trainings.

    For the latter group, fret not, help is here. Whether you’re looking to pass the IPPT or to improve on your scores, these IPPT training tips from Senior Physiotherapist Felicia Seah of the Department of Physiotherapy at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, will come in handy.

    Related article: How to get started and stay motivated to exercise regularly

    About the IPPT

    The IPPT is made up of five events: four static stations plus a 2.4km run. Static stations include sit-ups, standing broad jump (SBJ), pull-ups (chin-ups) and the 4 x 10m

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  • Is hypertension putting your eyes at risk?

    A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher indicates hypertension. (Thinkstock photo)A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher indicates hypertension. (Thinkstock photo)

    High blood pressure or hypertension is a silent killer that increases your risk of stroke and heart disease and causes serious health complications if left unchecked.

    Most people with high blood pressure feel normal (i.e. no headaches or tightness in the neck, etc.), even when their blood pressure is moderately high. Thus, many are not even aware that they have hypertension. This is why you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year and more frequently if you are on medication.

    Blood pressure measures how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the arteries. According to the Health Promotion Board, high blood pressure affects more than half of Singaporeans aged 60 to 69 and one in five aged 18 to 69. You have hypertension if your blood pressure reading is 140/90 mmHg or higher in the clinic.

    If you have a home blood pressure set, you should check your blood pressure regularly, and record it. Blood pressure varies throughout the day, and taking your pressure

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  • Do fast weight loss programmes work?

    Fast weight loss programmes are unlikely to give long term results. (Thinkstock photo)Fast weight loss programmes are unlikely to give long term results. (Thinkstock photo)

    Slimming massages, belly wraps, vibrating belts… these are some of the countless quick-fix commercial options available for weight loss. They promise instant results and fast weight loss. But do they actually help you lose weight and keep it off?

    “What these fast weight loss schemes have in common is their ‘feel-good’ value. There is generally no harm in using them but you should not expect any enduring weight loss,” says Dr Shanker Pasupathy, Senior Consultant and Director of the LIFE Centre, Singapore General Hospital (SGH). “Anyone who promises fast weight loss is being unrealistic. You can’t lose real weight with one or two sessions.”

    Losing 0.5 kg to 1 kg of body weight per week is considered healthy. People who lose weight much faster tend to lose mostly water weight (which is promptly regained). They also risk losing muscle mass, also known as lean mass, which can slow down your metabolism and have other negative effects.

    Related article: 8 proven ways to boost your metabolism

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