General Health

The questions below were raised by visitors to the STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) website in the AskST section of the website. eMenders doctors provided the answers to the questions raised as a public health education project. The information provided below is of a general nature and should not be treated as a replacement for medical advice. You should seek consultation from a medical or healthcare professional about your specific medical condition.


Keeping fit through aerobic exercise offers significant health benefits.

Increased activity helps to decrease body fat, increase cardiovascular health and in adults, can prevent type-2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

Aerobic activities such as running and cycling improve circulation to the brain, increasing mental alertness. Muscle tone improves, and exercise also increases bone density, preventing osteoporosis when older.

Excellent aerobic activities involve all kinds of semi-intensive to intensive sports (tennis, squash, basketball, football and badminton), and recreational jogging, cycling and swimming.

Body odour arises primarily from bacterial growth in sweat excreted from sweat glands all over the body and oil/sweat glands under the armpits and around the groin.

Conditions which promote bacterial growth can enhance a pungent odour in glandular regions, usually most noticeable around the underarms and feet. Such conditions could arise from environmental effects, e.g. damp/dark conditions, consumption of spicy foods and garlic.

Preventative measures reduce bacterial growth. Shower often and clean underarms, groin and feet thoroughly. Keep these areas dry, changing garments and socks in between frequent washings. Deodorants decrease sweat pH to inhibit bacterial growth. Antiperspirants block sweat glands and should be used only on the underarms.

Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), especially when localized on the underarms can also cause body odour. Treatments can be topical (BOTOX®, which blocks sweat glands) or surgical, which involves destroying the nerves in the affected regions.

A good body massage will improve your skin and some muscle circulation, as well as provide some muscle relaxation.

There is insufficient information in your question to provide you with a more complete answer. We assume that you are receiving medication from a doctor who is also aware of your other health issues, if any. Therefore, you should speak with your doctor on this issue. Alternatively, you may seek a second opinion with a cardiologist.

Cycling especially utilizes the muscles found in the leg. In particular, muscles attached to the shin bone (tibia) like the dorsal flexors and those attached to the thigh bone (femur) like the quadriceps and the gracilis (inner thigh) do most of the work. You may, to a lesser extent, tone your abdomnial muscles.

This could be a serious problem and you may not be breathing well during sleep. More information on your diet and intake of alcohol would be needed before determining whether either is responsible for your condition. Please consult with your own doctor or with either an ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist or Respiratory Specialist. You may also want to consider cutting down on your alcohol consumption.

The legs may feel numb after sitting for long periods of timebecause of compression of the nerves in the leg.

Circulation of both venous blood and lymph depend on the movement of skeletal muscles, which act as minor pumps, pushing blood and lymph upwards to the heart every time they contract.

When we sit still for a prolonged periods of time, there is little or no use of the skeletal muscles in our legs, which reduces the flow of blood and lymph.

This may cause lymph in particular to pool in our feet (there being no central pump with lymph, whereas blood has the heart), which may cause swelling and numbness. To relieve this, make sure you flex your leg muscles regularly when sitting for prolonged periods.

To lose body mass, your calorie intake must be exceeded by calorie usage. A strict regime of diet and exercise will help you maintain or shed mass.

Ideally, consume less fat/oil/sugar in your diet and substitute with healthier alternatives. Exercising regularly throughout the week for periods up to or exceeding 30 minutes will also help burn fat and aid in weight loss.

The perfect figure is very subjective. It is more important that you stay healthy and maintain a sense of well being; staying within the range of a healthy BMI.

We cannot comment on the use of figure shaping clothing or slimming centres except to say that they may well only be short-term solutions, and in the case of slimming centres, the cost of treatment is not likely to be low.

If using any creams or pills, it is important you read the label before consumption/application. Beware of your own allergies and any side effects listed. You should probably read around the topic as well, researching thoroughly and seeking professional advice before consumption of such material.

Side effects from taking paracetamol at the recommended dosage (2 500mg tablets every 6 hourly or 2 tablets every 4 hourly if required, but not exceeding 8 tablets a day) are exceedingly rare. Side effects, if they manifest at all, include hives, rashes, shortness of breath and periorbital edema (swelling of the eyelids).

It should be noted that even slight overdoses (more than 8 tablets a day) of paracetamol are very dangerous and can potentially be fatal – paracetamol in excess is toxic to the liver, and less frequently, the kidney. These effects can also arise if paracetamol is taken habitually or after prolonged use.

As such, it is sometimes advised that you should not take paracetamol for a fever if the fever persists after 3 days of using the drug, or for pain if the pain persists for more than 10 days. Though this is not a hard and fast rule, you should always consult a doctor in these instances.

Paracetamol should not be taken without the advice of a doctor if you are a chronic alcoholic, or if you have kidney / liver dysfunction / disease.

In summary, no harm should come if you use paracetamol as recommended by the wording on the box or as recommended by your doctor. However, if you have reservations, you could always try using Ibuprofen, although it would be wise to remember that possibly all drugs will have side effects, and more often than not, it is a question of whether the risk of taking the drug (low in this instance) outweighs the gain.

When in doubt, please consult your doctor or pharmacist.

The amount of weight gained depends on the amount of calories a person has consumed and also the metabolism of their body. Metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) the body burns to maintain itself. The body is constantly burning calories for survival purposes in any activities that a person engages. The extra calories not burnt will turn into fat. In terms of fat gain, there is no significant difference between sitting and sleeping after a meal.

Exercising actively will increase a persons metabolism rate. This means that the body will use up more calories to sustain itself. Also, this will increase the amount of muscle mass that a person has. As muscles require more calories to maintain itself, less calories will be stored than a person who does not exercise regularly.

As a general practice, it is better to engage in some light activities after a meal, than going to bed on a full stomach.

So far, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to associate the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants with the subsequent development of breast cancer.

An epidemiologic study of this issue was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2002 which made a comparison between 813 women with breast cancer and 793 women without the disease. The study found no relationship between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use or deodorant use.

For more information on antiperspirants and breast cancer risk, please visit the American Cancer Societys website.

Generally, drinking alkaline ionic water is good for health.

A human body needs to be maintained between a narrow range of pH 6.8 7.4 for the body to function well. However, most people are not aware that the environment contaminants which they breathe in from the air and the acidic food and beverages they consume affect their bodies pH. Also, people often overlook the importance of having pH balance in their diets. These often leave their bodies under the risk of falling out of the healthy pH range.

Cancer cells are active in acidic environment while healthy cells in the alkaline region. Thus, drinking alkaline water may prevent a normal person from suffering cancer to a certain extent while prevent cancer patients conditions from worsening. However, cancer patients should always seek professional advice from doctors for proper treatments.

The active ingredient in marijuana, cannabinoids, was shown in experiments a few years ago, to slow the growth of brain tumors in rats. The mechanism of such tumor inhibition is exerted through the formation of blood vessels, a process known as anti-angiogenesis. Anti-angiogenesis is a very important cancer treatment modality nowadays. It is used in the treatment of advanced colon cancer, lung cancer, and other cancer types.

Although marijuanas active ingredient may bring about such therapeutic effect, it would be some time before it can proven that such an ingredient could be used predictably and safely in humans.

Contributed by Dr Kong Hwai Loong, Oncologist.

Weight training exercises are an effective way to gain muscular mass. Weight training uses weights for resistance in strength training. According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that a single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle just as effectively as doing three repetitions of the same exercise.

The key is to effective weight training is to use the proper weight which will tire your muscles so that you are barely able to complete the last repetition. A complete weight training circuit where arms, shoulders, back, legs, chest and abdomen are exercised, can be performed in just 20 to 30 minutes. You also need to ensure that you allow your muscles sufficient time to recover from the stress by resting one day between exercising each specific muscle group.

There are many benefits from increasing ones muscle mass including being able to work harder and longer without tiring, maintaining joint flexibility, increasing bone density and better weight management. Other side benefits include reducing the risk of depression and improving mental health.

You can find out more about weight training by reading up about it in books. You can also ask your personal trainer or staff of your local gym to show you some simple weight training exercises that you can do for a start.

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or have not exercised in a long time, you should consult your doctor before starting on a rigorous exercise program.

The average normal body temperature is 37°C. However what is normal varies from one person to another. Temperature also varies depending on the time of the day (it can rise by as much as 0.6°C during the course of the day), or whether you are exercising on a hot day. In addition, the temperature also varies for women during their menstrual cycle, peaking at the time of ovulation. Further, the normal range of temperature for children and adults differs.

The method of taking body temperature yields different results, depending on whether temperature is taken orally, rectally or using a ear thermometer. Thus, a slight fever is present when the oral temperature is 37.8°C, or when the rectal or ear temperature is 37.3°C. For children, a rectal temperature of 38°C or higher indicates a fever.

If you are feeling very hot, you can cool yourself down by drinking more liquids, having a shower and turning on the fan or air-conditioner. For slight fevers, you can take a panadol (or for children, fever relief medication that is available over the shelf such as Nurofen). If the fever persists for several days or increases to 39°C or higher, you should consult your doctor who will be able to give you more specific advice and medication.