It is never too late to start taking care of one’s health and making lifestyle changes – such as eating healthier, exercising regularly and not smoking. Doing so can go a long way in preventing many diseases.

The Straits Times looks at some tips on how to lead a healthier life, based on a discussion about the issue at a health webinar organised by The Straits Times on Wednesday.

Q What is the best way to maintain joint health as we age, especially in the knees?
A It would be ideal if people can avoid injury, especially when they are younger. When young people sustain sports injuries, for instance, it predisposes them to future joint problems.

For those with joint pains, knee-strengthening exercises such as resistance and load-bearing exercises would offer a lot of help.

One thing to look out for is weight. When people put on too much weight, they tend to exercise less, their muscles get weaker, and they start to experience joint degeneration. Keeping muscles strong is important. For instance, the kneecap is not connected to anything. It is the muscles that hold and stabilise the knee.

Q Will exposing young children to long hours of screen time harm their vision?
A There is quite a lot of evidence that near-work screen reading worsens myopia. But there are ways to mitigate this. One is to let children go out into the open where there is greenery. Some research at the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health has shown that spending sufficient time in sunlit green areas reduces the risk of myopia, especially in younger people.Another way is to get children to take frequent rests from reading. Every 20 minutes, they should look up for 20 seconds at something 20m away.

Q Is it necessary to go for a full health check annually? What screenings are relevant for the different age groups?
A Yes, it is a good practice, especially for older people. A narrow set of checks is recommended, such as for high blood pressure and diabetes, and it is good to watch one’s weight.

Generally, screening should be done for colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.

For older people, it is also important to do functional testing, such as hearing and sight, because the impairment can take place slowly, without people realising it. This would create problems like social isolation due to the inability to participate in normal social activities.

The inability to engage socially and cognitively could lead to an earlier onset of dementia.

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