While ageing is part and parcel of life, it's never too late to practise a healthy lifestyle, writes Nadia Badarudin.
IT is 7am and the sun is slowly rising on a serene Thursday morning.
I have just arrived at the Bukit Gasing recreational park in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, a popular spot for exercise and recreational activities, particularly trail-running and jungle trekking.
While I am observing a group of elderly folks doing tai-chi not far from the entrance of the park, a small-built but muscular man approaches me.
"Are you Nadia? I'm Uncle Khuzae," says the man with a smile. He has jogged from his house 10 minutes away to the entrance.
Khuzae Mohamed is among the regular trail runners at Bukit Gasing. If you meet him for the first time, you will never have thought that he is 62.
Khuzae, or Uncle as he is fondly known among runners at the park, looks fit and healthy and does not look his age at all.
The father of three is from Kubang Kerian, Kelantan. He moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1977 to work as an illustrator for Media Seni which published comic books.
"Bukit Gasing has become my neighbourhood since 1984. And this park is like a playground to me. I run here every weekend," says Khuzae, now a freelance illustrator.
Ageing is part and parcel of life. Every individual ages differently, depending on how they take care of themselves emotionally and physically. And taking care of health from young makes a difference.
Khuzae started to be serious in maintaining his health at 34.
"I love food and my weight fluctuated depending on my diet. I didn't like that and that's how my routine started," he says.
Looking at his toned body, I think Khuzae loves to hit the gym too. But I am wrong.
"I don't like going to the gym because it requires commitment and I may have to consider taking supplements.
"I mostly run to keep fit. And my simple exercise routine works well because other than fever or headache, I seldom get sick," he says.
Khuzae runs the trail at Bukit Gasing for two loops (14km) during weekends and public holidays.
Recently, he started dumbbell-lifting (50 times per set), push-ups (50 times per set) and doing pull-ups (20 times per set) three times a day.
"I've just started these three exercises because I like a toned body. I don't like to look too skinny."
He participates in trail runs and marathons throughout the country. His first full-marathon was at the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon in 2011.
"I like to test my limits at these events. Performing better than the young ones is exhilarating.
"I participate in these events for the thrill and fun, and to make friends.
"Exercise should be fun. When it's fun, you'll stick to it," he says.
When it comes to food, nothing is off-limits to Khuzae.
"I eat four or five times a day but in moderation," says the grandfather of two.
To keep his mind alert, he paints and reads during his free time. He also loves photography.
What is his biggest achievement in maintaining his health so far?
"I managed to quit smoking several years ago." Khuzae says his secret to looking young and healthy is simple: Stay happy-go-lucky.
"I'm a happy-go-lucky person. I like to think positive and go with the flow.
"I also don't overthink or stress over things beyond my control," he says.
>b>KEEP HEALTH IN CHECK
Last year, the New Straits Times highlighted a forecast by the Statistics Department stating that Malaysia will be an ageing nation by 2035, when 15 per cent of the population are classified as senior citizens.
It revealed that in 2015, there were 2.8 million or nine per cent of senior citizens (aged 60 and above) in the country and the number will rise to 5.6 million in 2035.
The statistics clearly reflect that the nation has to face health-related issues of senior citizens.
Dr K. Sashetheran Nadaraja, a resident medical officer at Sri Kota Specialist Medical Centre, says people aged 60 and above can face health and cognitive health problems like dementia as well as those affecting emotional well-being like depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
"Besides that, ageing causes bones to shrink, and muscles to lose strength and flexibility, making the elderly more susceptible to falls and fractures.
"And underlying osteoporosis (a common condition in the elderly) can worsen the extent of the injuries sustained due to the fall," says Dr Sashetheran who also heads the medical centre emergency department and mortuary services.
Other problems include vision and hearing impairments, incontinence, constipation, muscle weakness due to malnutrition and substance abuse.
"Oral health issues like cavities, dry mouth, tooth decay, gum disease and oral ulcers are also common but usually overlooked by senior citizens," he adds.
However, these issues can be overcome by practising a healthy lifestyle and going for regular health screening, he adds.
For both active and sedentary senior citizens aged 60 and above, he recommends the following health screenings:
- blood pressure monitoring and blood sugar monitoring;
- Blood tests which include a full blood count, kidney profile, liver profile, cholesterol and cancer markers;
- Stress test for the heart;
- Pap smear and mammogram (for female)
- Colonoscopy, gastroscopy, ultrasound, X-ray and other specific blood tests if the person has signs or symptoms of a disease.
BE HAPPY, HAVE A HOBBY
Not all senior citizens can be as fit and work out consistently as Khuzae.
But it's never too late to practise a healthy lifestyle although you are over 60, says Dr Sashetheran.
His recommendations: "Eat a balanced diet, go for regular and simple exercises like walking and take up a hobby like reading or sewing to keep your mind active.
"Socialising or travelling – if your health condition allows it – can also make a big difference in maintaining a healthy body and mind."
He adds: "Always try to stay healthy and active. It can be anything from being able to do chores or minimise complications from illness to something as simple as avoiding obesity and having better hygiene.
"Most importantly, just enjoy the golden years. Be stress-free and happy."
HERE are some tips from Dr K. Sashetheran Nadaraja for people aged 60 and above:
1. Proteins such as fish, chicken and beans (to help prevent loss of muscle mass)
2. Fruit and vegetables (to improve immunity and fight inflammation)
3. High-fibre food (to help prevent constipation)
1. Processed food
2. Fatty food
3. Foods which are high in salt and sugar
4. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks
Note: Elderly patients with medical conditions should adhere to a diet as recommended by their doctors.