Health Concerns For BELIEVERS
Contemporary Issues

(Shahid Athar , M. D.)

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For those who are physicians or who have studied human anatomy and physiology, they will agree that the human body is the most incredible machine ever produced. They are surprised to confirm its hardware-bones, the delicate computer-the brain, the wiring-the nerves, the pump-heart, the pipes-circulation, the factory to digest- stomach, to ventilate-lungs, to eliminate waste-intestines, and organs-to reproduce, etc. Leaming from the mechanics of the human machine, mankind has designed other machines such as camera, artificial joints, dialysis machine, computer and robots.

The machines the humans have made-for example, an automobile- needs constant care, service, coffect gasoline and oil and the right battery. It needs routine service every three to six months and repairs every time it breaks down and only lasts five to ten years depending on how it is used. The machine devised by God, that is, the human machine, can last up to 140 years provided adequate care and maintenance is done and is not destroyed by disease, accidents and homicide.

What is the maintenance requirement of the human machine? Just like any car, you must put gasoline and oil of the right type; you must put in the human machine a good quality of product, that is food. If we feed our body junk food, that will become part of our body and therefore will affect the performance of the machine. The food given to the body should be nutritious, balanced in food groups, i.e., carbohydrate, protein. fat and have vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and others.

It should be in moderate quantity to take care of the energy need and the body should not be used as a storage for unnecessary food material. If God wanted us to eat three times a day, he would have put it in the scripture saying, "You shall eat three times a day," but He did not. In fact, if you watch other animals, they eat when they are hungry and not break- fast, lunch and dinner which we human beings have devised. Therefore we should eat to meet our need. For example, since we are active in the daytime, we must start the day with a breakfast that will provide some energy that will take of our physical activity afterwards. Lunch, however, is not that essential in terms of having a full meal but may be some snack or soup, about 200 calories will be needed. Similarly, an afternoon snack is better than an early dinner. Then, since there are going to be many hours of no food at night, it is better to have dinner or supper in the evening. We must try to keep our weight at or below the ideal body weight. The ideal body weight is calculated with 100 pounds for 5 feet and then 5 pound per inch with 10% plus for men and 10% minus for women. If you avoid several s's, i.e.,salt, sugar, slippery food, second helping, and snacks, you will be able to avoid gaining weight.

The second maintenance item is rest. We are not able to rest when we need to take rest. Nighttime has been created for rest so that the body repairs can take place. You cannot keep a factory operating at 100% capacity and then do the repairs of the broken parts. Therefore, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise is not a wrong saying. An eight-hour sleep in the night is essential for good rest and refreshed body for the next day. Many of us stay up late at night either doing our work or wasting our time watching TV or movies and therefore. when we wake up, we are tired and exhausted.

The third maintenance item is exercise which is essential for the lubrication of the joints and keeping the circulation intact in different organs and make the pump, the heart, work harder. Exercise does not have to be strenuous. Even five to ten minutes of exercise a day will have a much better effect later on. It lowers blood sugar, cholesterol and increased HDL which helps protect us from coronary artery disease. It improves the endurance and also improves the operation of many other internal organs.

The fourth point is fighting infection. Therefore we must have cleanliness and what would be the best way of cleanliness is washing the hands and face five times a day and taking a shower when one is dirty, having clean clothes and socks, inhaling clean air and drinking pure water for internal cleaning. These acts of cleanliness are considered half of faith. Fifthly, mental peace and tranquility or the spiritual care ensures a smooth flow of hormones and working of the organs. The more excited and tense we are, the harder the heart is working and will not be able to perform better by pumping blood more forcefully to distant places. Therefore, a slow heart rate achieved either by exercise or by mental and physical rest helps blood reach different organs in a better way.

Now if we go to the individual organs or parts of this human machine, we can summarize some maintenance items.

1. For the brain, enough oxygen by deep breathing or walking in the fresh air and improving the circulation by exercise will help memory and mental capacity. And again, thinking is a form of mental exercise and we are told in Quran "why don't you think?"

2. For lungs, we must have a clean nostril when we wash our faces and breathe through the nose rather than the mouth and avoid harmful items such as cigarettes.

3. For the liver, we must avoid toxins which come from different medications and infection.

4. For the stomach and intestines, we must use less spicy food and use the food which is high in bran and fiber. We must have good bowel movement every day to prevent storage of waste products in the intestines which sometimes can be partially absorbed.

5. For the heart and circulation, the best care involves eating a low cholesterol diet and a low-salt diet along with moderate exercise.

6. For the kidneys, we must ensure six to eight glasses of water a day and again avoid medications, especially antibiotics and pain killers which injure the kidneys.

7. Finally, just like my car requires an every 3,000-mile check-up, the human body requires an annual physical check-up by a physician to detect a problem before it becomes a major health hazard. These include a good physical examinations rectal examination, for women a Pap test and mammography, for men and women both a cholesterol screening, blood sugar check-up. blood pressure check-up and as necessary, may include chest x-ray or EKG, prostate examination for men, and routine chemistry profile. Hopefully, if we do all of these things, whether we live longer or not, we will be able to enjoy the life that we are given to live and return the body to its maker in good shape under good warranty.