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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

The gift of good health

Kindergarten pupils wearing Santa Claus costumes prepare to release balloons during a campaign to raise money for a charity donation for Christmas in Seoul, South Korea on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013. To help you get through the stressful gift-buying seaso
The Straits Times - December 6, 2013
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The gift of good health


Antenatal cookbook

Learn how to eat healthily during pregnancy with this new cookbook for expectant mums.

No fewer than 40 different nutrients – such as vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium and iron – are required for a mother-to-be, so a well-balanced diet of the right amount is crucial.

Eating too much or too little during pregnancy is not just bad for a mother-to-be, it can also predispose her baby to chronic diseases. These include coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and possibly osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancer, said Ms Christine Ong, chief dietitian at the nutrition and dietetics department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

So give your loved one Good Eats For Mums-To-Be and let her try out the 35 dietitian-approved recipes, written by food blogger Heng Ju Ee, Ms Ong and senior dietitian Nehal Kamadar.

Healthy does not have to mean boring and the book includes goodies such as mee goreng and bubur cha cha. Each recipe comes with nutritional information and tips for making the dish healthier.

Get it at KKH’s Patient Education Centre, Women’s Tower Level 1, for $20 (inclusive of GST) or from major bookstores for $25 (inclusive of GST). All proceeds will go to the KKH Health Endowment Fund to support needy patients.

Post-natal massage

Having a baby is a joyful event but it is also stressful, so reward a new mother with a post-natal massage.

Not only is such a massage relaxing, it can also help mothers with breastfeeding, said Ms Fonnie Lo, a lactation consultant at the ParentCraft Services at Thomson Medical Centre.

She said studies show a mother who is relaxed during labour or during breastfeeding has increased levels of the hormones – prolactin and oxytocin – essential for milk production and flow.

And what is more relaxing than a massage?

Women who have had vaginal deliveries can have one as soon as the very next day, said Ms Lo.

Thomson Medical Centre offers two types of post-natal massage. A package of seven sessions of Javanese massage costs $750 (before GST), while a package of five sessions of manual lymphatic drainage massage costs $1,008 (before GST). The packages can be bought at


Gym ball

So many things can be done today without getting up from the computer. And that is the problem.

With millions hunched over their devices for hours at a stretch, more people are suffering lower back pain and other spinal conditions related to poor posture, said Mr Franklin Chen, a physiotherapist at Novena Specialist Centre.

Give your desk-bound loved one a gym ball to help him improve his posture and get a core workout with minimal effort.

Gym balls add variety to one’s usual repertoire of abdominal exercises, said Mr Chen. Use one while working, reading or watching the television.

Research shows you get more muscle activity and at least 33 per cent more trunk motion than sitting in a chair with armrests, he said.

Buy a gym ball that is suitable for one’s height. One’s knees and hips should be at a 90-degree angle when sitting on the ball.

World Of Sports sells gym balls in two diameters: the 65cm ball at $29.90 (GST inclusive) and the 75cm ball at $32.90. They come in white, blue and red.

Neck firming cream

Here is a fact which may give you worry lines: Women start to show signs of ageing in their 30s, especially if they have been under the sun a lot or if they smoke, warned Dr Lynn Chiam, a dermatologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

Although much time is spent trying to prevent and reduce fine lines and wrinkles on the face, most people neglect the neck.

Alas, ageing, sagging and wrinkled skin is most obvious in areas where the skin is thinner, such as the neck. Aside from sunscreen on the neck, women can also try Nectifirm, said Dr Chiam.

Of its active ingredients, lipopeptide controls the secretion of cytokins, responsible for many signs of ageing. Clinical trials of lipopetide on the neck have shown it increases firmness by 40 per cent in 28 days.

Nectifirm also contains a blend of bamboo, silica, english pea extract and glucosamine to increase the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, to hydrate, firm and tone skin.

The cream is sold in dermatologist and aesthetic clinics. At Dr Chiam’s Children & Adult Skin Hair Laser Clinic, a 48g tub costs $150 (before GST).

Probiotic supplement

Give the gift of friendly bacteria and your friend’s gut will thank you.

Research into different bacterial strains of probiotics has shown them to be useful in treating and preventing acute diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and bowel inflammation, such as radiation-induced diarrhoea.

Probiotics improve overall immune function and aid the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Regular intake of friendly gut bacteria may also be helpful for women who are prone to urinary tract infection and the elderly with arthritis.

Dr Lim Jit Fong, general surgeon at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said anyone of any age can take probiotic supplements.

For most strains of probiotics, look for a strength of five to 10 billion cells per capsule or sachet.

Guardian carries both the Neobiotics Travel (20 sachets) and the Neobiotics Immune (60 capsules) supplements, which cost $27.90 and $55.90 respectively.

Holland & Barrett outlets sell the Mega Potency Acidophilus with Pectin for $43.90, Chewable Acidophilus with Bifidus in strawberry flavour for $29.90 and another brand of probiotic supplements called Probio 7 Advanced Formula for $69.90.

Blood pressure monitor

High blood pressure is a key risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases, and people who have it should monitor it regularly.

Now you can help give someone peace of mind with an inexpensive blood pressure monitor that can be used at home.

A meta-analysis of five studies published last year showed home monitoring to be a better predictor of heart health and organ damage than blood pressure monitoring in the doctor’s office.

Dr Terence Teo, a consultant radiologist at ParkwayHealth Radiology, said the process is non-invasive and the gadget can be used by everyone.

He said it takes several months for blood pressure to stabilise when patients go on medication. So, it is a good idea for them to measure their blood pressure once a month, a fortnight or even every day if they have hypertension that is hard to control.

Everyone else just needs to have their blood pressure measured whenever they visit a doctor.

At Guardian outlets, Omron blood pressure monitors cost between $89 and $280, depending on their functions.

A cheaper alternative is the Guardian G Kube blood pressure monitor, which is now at a promotional price of $49.90.

Compression stockings

Sitting still for hours at a time can cause blood to pool in the feet, ankles and legs.

Normally, the leg muscles act as pumps to push this blood back to the heart, aided by valves in the veins that prevent it from flowing back.

But people with varicose veins have valves that do not work effectively. And pregnant women have more distensible veins that make them prone to fluid retention, said Dr Lim May-Li, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

These folks can get lower limb swelling which causes pain, aching, heaviness or muscle cramps.

Dr Lim recommends compression stockings to facilitate the pump function of the leg muscles and reduce swelling.

Bauerfeind compression stockings provide controlled gradient compression, with pressure at its maximum at the ankles and decreasing gradually up the leg.

The brand’s VenoTrain micro 2013 fashion colour collection comes in lavender, silver, denim and ruby. Prices start from $115. They are available at Bauerfeind outlets in Cambridge Road, Tong Building in Orchard and Parkway Parade in Marine Parade.

Bird’s nest

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners value bird’s nest for its ability to nourish the lungs and improve the complexion.

Recent studies also suggest it may contain components that can slow down the progression of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, and help cartilage regenerate.

When buying bird’s nest, keep in mind it could be contaminated by harmful microbes and chemicals such as nitrites, mainly from the birds’ faeces, said Dr Low Wong Kein, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

He said bird’s nest, whether dried or bottled, should not be too white or gold in colour. Buy those which are in whole pieces, as they are less likely to be adulterated with cheap substitutes such as pig skin, seaweed or agar agar, he added.

Local bioscience technology group Gene Oasis has developed automated systems to clean and package the nests in a controlled environment.

There, dried bird’s nest retails at $315 per 75g and each 150ml bottled bird’s nest retails at $75.

They are available at 28 Tai Seng Street, 04-05/06 Sakae Building and at


Like any other part of the body, eyes need protection from the sun.

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure contributes to cataracts, macular degeneration and growths on the eye, including cancer, said Dr Chua Wei Han, medical director and senior consultant at Parkway Eye Centre at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

So, shield your peepers with sunglasses that block 99 or 100 per cent of the UV light if you have to be out in the sun for prolonged periods.

While they may be important for aesthetic reasons, the colour and degree of darkness of the sunglass lens will not tell you anything about its ability to block out UV light, he said.

At Capitol Optical store at Jem, women can opt for the Kate Spade sunglasses ($270) or the Gucci sunglasses ($570), both of which were launched this year.

Men who lead active lifestyles can choose the Adidas sunglasses ($429) which has a green rubber trim for better grip.

Men can also opt for the aviator-style Police sunglasses ($290).

Aromatherapy set

The use of essential oils, known as aromatherapy, can yield health benefits.

Evidence suggests that essential oil could be useful for managing chronic pain, increasing relaxation and alertness, and reducing anxiety.

Ms Lee Lee Sian, a senior occupational therapist at the Institute of Mental Health, recommended aroma diffusers and essential oils such as lavender, chamomile and peppermint.

Though they can be used anywhere, any time, using these fragrances at bedtime may provide better quality of sleep and reduce the effects of insomnia.

But people who have a history of allergies should use essential oils only under the guidance of a trained professional and after consulting a doctor.

At Guardian, the Joie Grapefruit Reed Diffuser and Secrets Brier Rose Reed Diffuser each retails at $19.95. A current promotion entitles people to buy three of these for the price of two.

At Robinsons departmental stores, a mini diffuser gift set from The Aromatherapy Company retails at $55.



If your child complains of a headache, tell him to go fly a kite. We mean this in all sincerity.

Singapore children have some of the highest rates of myopia in the world – 29.1 per cent of kids aged six and seven, compared with 3.3 per cent of their peers in Sydney, according to one study.

One reason could be the paltry amount of time they spend outdoors.

The Straits Times reported in October that children in Sydney spend an average of 13.8 hours a week outdoors. Children here? Just 3.1 hours – which works out to not even half an hour daily.

But getting off the screen and getting outdoors does wonders for the eyes. In Taiwan, a study of 571 elementary school students aged seven to 11 had 333 of them spending recess doing outdoor activities, while the rest were left to their own devices. After one year, fewer children in the group playing outdoors had myopia or worsening myopia than in the other group.

Dr Chua Wei Han, medical director and senior consultant at Parkway Eye Centre in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, recommends that parents get their children interested in outdoor activities such as kite-flying.

At Toys ‘R’ Us, you can find kites with characters such as Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear for $5.95 each.

PassionKites sells butterfly kites ($28.90) from Taiwan, flying minion kites ($18.90) and Superman kites ($18) from Hong Kong at 05-12 Lion Building B and at


Shape-sorting toys for toddlers aged two and three are starter kits for skills they will one day be able to do with their eyes closed.

Dr Lian Wee Bin, paediatrician and neonatologist at SpecialKids Child Health and Development Clinic at Thomson Plaza, said such toys teach young ones to distinguish similarities and differences.

They help to develop the visual-perceptual, coordination and fine motor skills necessary for writing and analytical thinking – skills they will need one day to solve those tricky maths problems in school.

At Toys ‘R’ Us, the Bruin Shape And Lock Barn for children aged 12 months and above costs $14.95.

Board book with flaps

Before they become interested in the words in a book, children are captivated by pictures and the feel of textures.

Board books with flaps that hide surprises are especially good for children aged two to six years old, said Ms Goh Siew Li, a senior speech-language therapist at the rehabilitation department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

These let parents interact with their children while reading the books. Research shows that it is important for parents not just to read to a child, but also to share the reading experience.

The longer a child is engaged with a book and the more a parent encourages questions and interaction, the greater the effect on the child’s language development.

At Toys ‘R’ Us, a “Where Do I Live” book by Tiny Love for children three months and above costs $26.90.

Pretend play kit

Pretend play engages many areas of the brain controlling emotion, cognition, language and sensory-motor skills.

And while children learn to use all those parts of their brains, they are also having fun, said Ms Goh Siew Li, a senior speechlanguage therapist at the rehabilitation department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Through play, children learn to get along, work out conflicts and empathise with others, said Dr Lian Wee Bin, paediatrician and neonatologist at SpecialKids Child Health and Development Clinic at Thomson Plaza.

One study found that four- and five-year-olds who re-enacted stories used more elaborative narratives and had higher levels of narrative structure than children who heard the stories told alone.

Such toys are suitable for children aged 18 months to five years, said Dr Lian.

At Toys ‘R’ Us, a fireman set by True Heroes costs $49.95, while an 11-piece doctor set by Bruin costs $19.95. Both sets of toys are for children aged three years and above.

NS book

Sports doctors often have national servicemen knocking on their doors with musculoskeletal injuries.

They get hurt because they do not have the training or fitness level needed to enter military service, said Dr Roger Tian, consultant sports physician at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre and Changi Sports Medicine Centre at Changi General Hospital (CGH).

Boys To Men: The Complete Guide For National Servicemen, by Dr Tian and physiotherapist Cameron Black, taps the expertise of 12 local experts from the sports medicine, sports science and military medicine community.

It includes illustrations of exercises to improve strength and flexibility, drills to improve running performance, training techniques to ace the Individual Physical Proficiency Test, and dietary tips and guidelines.

Dr Tian said: “An improved fitness level will not only reduce their risk of sustaining a musculoskeletal injury, but also make them more resilient and the national service journey more enjoyable and meaningful.”

Even better would be if young men learnt to cultivate a lifelong habit of exercise, he said.

The book is available at $19.90 at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre, the pharmacy at CGH and major bookstores.


LED shower head

This is a handy device for bathing elderly people who have trouble communicating or with peripheral nerve problems that reduce their ability to feel changes in temperature so they are not scalded by accident.

The light-emitting diode (LED) lights on this shower head change colour according to the water temperature: green if the water is below 31 deg C; blue for between 32 and 43 deg C; red for between 44 and 50 deg C; and an urgent red strobe if the mercury rises above 51 deg C.

No longer do caregivers need to worry about giving showers that are too hot or too cold, said Dr Angeline Seah, a senior consultant at the department of geriatric medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH).

This LED shower head retails at $39 (inclusive of GST) at The Able Studio at KTPH.

Eye screening package

Many disorders of the eye are associated with ageing, and screening is recommended for people above the age of 50, said Dr Goh Kong Yong, a neuro-ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

Screening can pick up ailments, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy “in a painless and fuss-free manner”, he said.

An eye examination can also reveal the presence of systemic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes, through the health of the blood vessels in the eyes.

At Dr Goh Eye Neuro-Ophthalmic & Low Vision Specialist clinic, a 15-minute eye screening package ($140) comprises a vision check, an airpuff tonometry (eyeball pressure check for glaucoma) and photography of the retina (back of the eye).

A visual field test and a detailed eye examination by the ophthalmologist may be ordered if glaucoma is suspected. If so, the total cost will go up to $250.

At the National Healthcare Group Eye Institute at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, a basic eye examination package costs $40 while a comprehensive package costs $140 for Singaporeans and permanent residents.


When one gets older, he will want to look back on life and reflect on his accomplishments.

It is not just a natural effect of ageing. Reminiscing is a beneficial exercise which increases one’s life satisfaction and self-esteem, alleviates depression and reduces confusion.

Ms Lee Lee Sian, a senior occupational therapist at the Institute of Mental Health, said in reminiscence therapy, she uses memorabilia to help her patients create scrapbooks which form a basis of discussion of their past experiences.

“Creating a scapbook encourages families to spend time together and allows an individual to focus on and relive special memories in a way that cements these memories in his mind,” Ms Lee said.

At PaperMarket in Plaza Singapura, a 30cm by 30cm Album In An Instant book, which has 20 pre-designed pages, costs $59.90.

Relaxation DVD

A little bit of stress makes you feel alive but too much can lead to problems such as insomnia, high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, asthma and skin ailments.

According to research by service office operator Regus, of 16,000 professionals in more than 80 countries, half declared their stress levels rose over the past year.

Stress is more than just a health issue. It can hit bottom lines when productivity drops.

Ms Teresa Foong, the chief psychologist at the department of psychological medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH), recommends learning to relax with a new DVD produced by her department.

Relaxation For The Body & Mind comes in English and Mandarin and teaches people exercises such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and guided visualisation and imagery.

Ms Foong said: “When relaxation exercises are practised regularly, the body’s natural relaxation response is produced. This slows the heart rate, lowers the blood pressure, and decreases oxygen consumption and levels of stress hormones. A feeling of calmness and well-being is experienced.”

The DVD retails at $16.05 at The Able Studio at KTPH.

Step stool

Behold the humble step stool – it is not just a means to reach the top shelf but to getting fit as well.

Stepping on and off a step is great exercise for elderly relatives to build strength and balance, said Dr Lee Kim En, a neurologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

It can even be used by patients who have recently suffered strokes and degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

A few repetitions done every day will do wonders. Dr Lee said an elderly person can work out on the stool for one to two minutes continuously before resting.

This can make up the 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a week recommended by the Health Promotion Board.

But step exercises can hurt the knees, so be careful not to choose stools that are too high for an elderly person.

Rehab Mart Homecare stores stock three types of step stools: a one-step footstool ($35), a two-step footstool ($160) and a footstool with handrail ($68).

At Alphamed, a single-step stool costs $120, a two-step stool costs $190 and a single-step stool with handrail costs $150. You can get these at special rates of $90, $160 and $140 respectively by quoting “The Straits Times Mind Your Body” to Haslinda at 6776-0549 or


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