Singaporeans are no strangers to the “three highs”, which refer to the trio of chronic metabolic conditions – high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions are known to increase one’s risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
One in six of Singapore’s adults between 18 and 69 years old has high cholesterol, one in nine has diabetes and almost one in four has hypertension, according to the 2010 National Health Survey.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner Lin Xiaoyan, an associate senior physician at Eu Yan Sang (EYS) TCM Clinic at Hougang Mall, cited modern-day unhealthy lifestyle habits and behaviours as one of the main reasons why more people in Singapore are getting these conditions. The natural ageing process is another contributing factor.
The lack of rest and exercise, as well as an increased intake of sugar, oil, salt, MSG and alcohol, have been linked to the three highs, said Ms Lin, who also practises at EYS TCM Wellness Clinic at Plaza Singapura.
When these chronic metabolic diseases are not diagnosed or are poorly-controlled, they may lead to severe complications, disability and even early death.
But even if you have been diagnosed, it is not all doom and gloom. Lifestyle changes and the right treatment can help control these chronic metabolic diseases and prevent damaging complications in the long run, said Ms Lin.
HOW TCM CAN HELP
Those who are looking for ways to help them better manage their conditions may consider TCM, in conjunction with their medical treatment as well as lifestyle and diet changes.
According to Ms Lin, TCM adopts a holistic approach when it comes to managing diseases. TCM practitioners typically formulate a customised treatment plan based on the patient’s disease syndrome, symptoms and body constitution.
“In TCM, we believe that any illness or poor health is the result of imbalance of the yin, yang, qi and blood. Our objective is to restore the imbalance within the body,” she said.
Here, Ms Lin shares how TCM addresses each of the three highs.
1. HIGH BLOOD SUGAR
In TCM, diabetes is linked to the deficiency of the yin and malfunction of the organs, particularly in the lungs, stomach and spleen, and kidneys. All of these could be a result of an inferior body constitution, unhealthy diet, uncontrolled emotional changes or over-exhaustion, said Ms Lin.
Common symptoms that patients experience include excessive thirst, increased appetite, frequent urination, fatigue and weight loss.
According to Ms Lin, TCM classifies diabetes into three major categories, upper lungs dysfunction, middle stomach and spleen dysfunction, and lower kidneys dysfunction, each with its accompanying symptoms. The treatment focus is to restore balance in these three organs.
For instance, patients with upper lungs dysfunction may experience symptoms such as excessive thirst, dryness in the mouth, frequent urination, excessive sweating, redness at the side and tip of the tongue and a thin, yellowish tongue coating, said Ms Lin.
“The treatment objective for upper lungs dysfunction is to restore yin, which helps to lubricate the lungs, reduce heatiness and quench thirst,” she explained.
Patients may be prescribed herbs such as Trichosanthis Radix (snakegourd root, tian hua fen), Puerariae Radix (kudzu root, ge gen), Anemarrhenae Radix (zhi mu), Ophiopogonis Radix (ophiopogon tuber, mai dong) and Scutellariae Radix (scutellaria, huang qin).
Foods that may help regulate blood sugar levels include pumpkin, bitter gourd, corn, Chinese yam, onions and ladies’ finger, said Ms Lin.
2. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Hypertension is dubbed a silent killer as patients sometimes have no obvious symptoms.
“At times, they may experience only a stiff neck, headache or giddiness when the blood pressure is already high. In severe cases, it is only detected when complications surface, such as when a stroke or heart attack,” said Ms Lin.
In TCM, high blood pressure is the consequence of the accumulation of phlegm, blood stasis, wind and fire or deficiency of qi and blood, she said.
Patients who have hypertension due to different causative factors may experience very different symptoms. For example, those with an accumulation of phlegm-dampness may experience giddiness, a heavy-headed feeling, nausea, poor appetite with drowsiness, a thick whitish coating on the tongue and have a “soft and slippery” pulse, said Ms Lin.
In this case, treatment would focus on strengthening the digestive system to expel phlegm-dampness and calm the liver. A herbal remedy of Folium Nelumbinis (lotus leaf, he ye) and Citri Reticulatae Pericarpium (orange peel, chen pi) may be used, she said.
For effective control of high blood pressure, it is important not to discontinue or adjust a patient's medication dosages without consulting a doctor, said Ms Lin.
To maintain optimal blood pressure levels, a healthy diet and lifestyle are key. This includes maintaining a healthy body mass index, consuming food with less salt, avoiding smoking and alcohol, getting enough sleep and having a regular exercise routine, advised Ms Lin.
Foods that may be able to help regulate blood pressure include celery, spinach, black fungus, beetroot, broccoli and bananas, she added.
3. HIGH CHOLESTEROL
Hyperlipidemia, the medical term for high blood cholesterol, can be deadly when plaque builds up in the arteries over time, causing partial or total blockage of blood flow to the organs.
In TCM, the accumulation of plaque is believed to be the result of an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, poor body constitution, and the natural ageing process. This results in the dysfunction of organs in the spleen, liver and kidneys, which may lead to poor qi, blood, fluid and nutrient metabolism and circulation, said Ms Lin.
Consuming too much alcohol and a diet high in calories can damage the spleen, resulting in the build-up of phlegm and dampness, or phlegm-blood stasis blockage. To lower lipids level, a TCM practitioner may focus on strengthening the digestive system and promoting blood circulation to eliminate blood stasis and phlegm-dampness, said Ms Lin.
Cholesterol-lowering TCM herbs such as Crataegi Fructus (hawthorn berry, shan zha), Salviae Miltiorrhizae Radix (salvia root, danshen), Folium Nelumbinis (lotus leaf, he ye), Acori Tatarinowii Rhizoma (sweetflag rhizome, shi chang pu) and Pinelliae Rhizoma (ban xia) may be prescribed.
Foods such as cucumber, carrot, kiwi, ginger, chives, hawthorn and onions are also thought to help regulate blood lipid levels, said Ms Lin.
As every individual’s physique and symptoms may differ, it is advisable to consult a trained TCM physician for a customised treatment plan.
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This promotion is valid for new and existing patients. Terms and conditions apply. Visit sg.euyansangclinic.com/cna-3highs for details or call 1800 225 1887.