Dr. Afaque Akhtar is a well-trained and passionate expert in internal medicine, with a practice in the Premier Health Center in Fuquay-Varina. And he often takes his wisdom and practice to other locations, such as nursing homes, and has a well-earned reputation as a passionate speaker about the meaning and the practice of vibrant good health.
“I wish I could say that these conversa-tions were always successful in guiding people of all ages into developing and maintaining excellent good health practices—but too often that is not the case,” he says. “More com-monly, when I’m having this type of conversa-tion about the consequences of poor health practices, the response is ‘I can see how that could be a problem for some people, but not for me. I’m a little overweight, but I have a good diet and I occasionally exercise.’
“This is a comment that might well be coming from a gentleman who is borderline obese, and he simply doesn’t understand—or refuses to acknowledge—that he is seriously overweight with a high body mass index and a significant fat mass in his body. With testing, we may find that his blood sugar level is also high, and this patient is, in fact, borderline diabetic. A typical response from this type of patient, I’m sorry to say, is: ‘I’m feeling fine, but I’ll keep my eye on it and get my weight down a bit.’”But, says Dr. Akhtar, “my passion with a patient such as this is to make certain that he understands the potential consequences of full-blown diabetes, and how that can af-fect different parts of his body. I will be sure he knows that if he has diabetes, he can also have related heart disease. Unless he is will-ing to improve his diet, get his weight down, and engage in a meaningful exercise program he has a high likelihood of having a heart attack. There are strong links between these habits and conditions, and they often lead, in many cases, to a very unpleasant outcome.”
Adds Dr. Akhtar, “too often I have these same kinds of conversations with people who smoke. A smoker said to me recently, ‘My grandfather smoked until he was 86, and he was a pretty healthy man right up to the time of his death. I’m from the same stock. What’s the point of cutting down, or quitting completely? I’m hooked and I like it.’
“The chances are slim,” says, Dr. Akhtar, “that I will convince this young man to let go of his smoking habit, but I will certainly tell him that the odds are not in his favor. The fact is, 80 to 85 percent of smokers or heavy consumers of alcohol will experience poor health at an early age, as well as premature death. These habitual smokers and heavy drinkers are candidates for lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and many other health problems. These are self-inflicted wounds, and I certainly like to help people heal those wounds when pos-sible.”
Simple habits—such as smoking—can have very unwelcome consequences, he points out. “And simple good health habits can have powerful consequences. Nobody else can force you to consume a healthy diet. We all have to make our individual health choices, in how we want to protect and nur-ture the body we are blessed with. I encour-age my patients to learn more about their bodies, and especially learn more about how to care for and nurture their mind, body and spirit. Nobody else can do this for us. Each of us must do this for ourselves.”
Adds the doctor: “At this time of year, I especially encourage all of my patients to get a flu shot. I tell my patients who are 60 or older, or patients who have multiple medical problems, that they must get their flu shot. Of course a flu shot in some cases will produce low-grade fever, which is easy to resolve. But if you don’t get the flu shot and you encounter the influenza bug, you may well be in bed for a week, and be weak and poorly functioning for an additional couple of weeks, especially if you are dealing with other health issues, such as diabetes, at the same time.”