Top Wellness Tips for Beijing Newcomers
Compiled by Family Medicine Physicians at Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics
Lead an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle
It’s useful to picture Beijing as a pro-inflammatory city. “Pro-inflammatory” means causing free radical damage to our healthy cells, as well as setting off cascades of unhealthy hormones and enzymes that can slowly lead to many illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Because we are exposed to these chemicals in our foods and in the air we breathe, it might be helpful to ask yourself, “What can I do to fight off this damage?” Fortunately, you can take a lot of basic steps: don’t smoke; exercise; limit your exposure to air pollution; watch your alcohol intake; and eat anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid our modern world’s unhealthier foods including trans-fats, processed foods and grain-fed red meats.
Air Pollution: Control Your Exposure
Air pollution is a problem in almost every city in China, but it is generally worse in the north including Beijing and Tianjin. Sometimes the Air Quality Index (AQI) is many times higher than World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended levels. Air pollution may be a serious health concern if you or your children have lung or heart conditions. Healthy people may also develop symptoms on severely polluted days. Children are especially at risk for long-term lung damage because their sensitive lungs keep growing until their late teens. But it’s important to realize two things: First, the relative risk of air pollution causing health problems is much lower than the risk of suffering from other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and smoking. Second, you can take steps to avoid the worst of the pollution. Because 90% of our lives are spent indoors, use indoor air purifiers to clean your air at all times, especially in a child’s bedroom. On the worst days, especially when the AQI is over 200, you should consider limiting your outdoor activities. If you or your child must go outside on those bad days, wear an N95-rated air pollution mask. N95 means the mask blocks 95% of fine particles. By taking these steps, you can dramatically decrease your total exposure to air pollution.
Play with Your Food
Food safety is a major concern all over China, so it is recommended to stick to foods, restaurants and markets that you know are safer. Organic food is a good choice because it is more likely to be free of toxic levels of pesticides and chemicals. High prices and availability can be an issue, but the next level of protected foods – called GreenFood (绿色食品) – are often cheaper than organic foods and claim to use fewer chemicals. The big supermarkets – such as Metro, Walmart and Carrefour – have a growing selection of organic foods. Also, their general quality of produce and meats are high due to their supply chains and cold storage. No matter where you get your produce, always clean and rinse it properly, especially leafy greens. In the summer, be especially careful where you buy your meats and produce because dangerous bacteria can grow quickly on uncovered, un-cooled meats. Don’t forget other basics of food safety: try to use glass containers (not plastic) and polyethylene (PE) cling wrap; make sure your ayi knows how to properly clean and prepare foods; and try to drink water from installed filters and not delivered bottles. (Much of the delivered water and containers are counterfeit or unsafe). You can also make your own soymilk and yogurt with machines that can be purchased at many stores.
Take Care of Your Body and Soul
Beijing’s hectic pace and harsh environment can put a lot of stress on us, and some cope much better than others. It’s crucial to frequently check in with our hearts and souls and ask ourselves, “Am I happy here in Beijing? Am I neglecting something or someone, including myself?” Health tips include getting eight hours of sleep; enjoying a massage, spa or hot springs as much as possible; joining others for yoga, tai chi, or dancing; and staying away from smoking and excess alcohol. If you’re worried about your life spinning out of control, please take advantage of our friendly counseling team.
Get Fit – Even Outside!
China shares the same #1 killer as the rest of the world: heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Most heart disease is caused by our modern lifestyles and can be prevented. We all need to focus on the basics of maintaining healthy body weight, eating proper foods, not smoking, and, most importantly, exercising. With exercise, you should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 90 minutes of more energetic exercise. You can also try shorter routines called high-intensity interval training (HIIT) three times a week for 15 minutes each. You should do whatever sport you love. Beijing is filled with gyms and public parks, and there are many hiking and biking clubs. Don’t be afraid to exercise outside! As long as the AQI pollution index is reasonable (under 150), exercising outside is still much healthier than not exercising at all. If the AQI is high, especially over 200, you should wear a properly fitted pollution mask when exercising outdoors.
Explore Beijing by Bicycle
Biking in Beijing is a vanishing tradition but continues to be the most convenient mode of transport around many parts of Beijing. Biking is often faster than driving. Plus, you gain immense lifetime value from improved health and fitness, even if you factor in the pollution (wear a mask if it’s very bad that day). Biking to work every day can create a deep connection to real Beijing. There’s simply nothing as charming as biking through the old hutong neighborhoods, especially at night. Don’t forget to wear your helmet! You may stand out in a crowd, but helmets are lifesavers for you and your children.
Be Wise! Immunize!
It’s important to ensure that your immunizations are up to date. All the standard immunizations in Western countries (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningitis) are relevant for China and should be in date. We strongly recommend that you be immunized for hepatitis A and B, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies. Rabies is a deadly infection and China is second only to India in the number of reported cases. Rabies immunization is important for children and pet owners. Teach your children not to approach unknown animals. Even if immunized it is vital that you thoroughly wash any animal bite, scratch or lick to broken skin, and that you see a doctor the same day for further immunization.
Be Aware of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Beijing is not immune to the worldwide problem of sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, there are many reasons for you to practice safe sex. Be careful where you buy condoms; many poorly made counterfeits are sold, usually in smaller stores. You should buy only from the big chain stores or pharmacies. Don’t forget that you can carry sexual infections for many years and feel perfectly healthy — but still infect others. That’s why sexually active men and women should get tested regularly. These tests can give you a lot of peace of mind, especially if you are entering a new relationship.
Since 1997, Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics (BJU) has brought together senior physicians and specialists from all over the world to provide professional expertise with a caring attitude. BJU offers a full range of medical services including Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Obstretrics and Gynaecology,Orthopedics, IVF, and many other specialties. For information on our all our services including our 24hour Emergency Department visit our website at www.ufh.com.cn
Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics is part of the United Family Healthcare (UFH) network of hospitals and clinics, with facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Wuxi, Qingdao, and Mongolia. For more information please call our 24h service line 4008-919191, 24h Emergency 86(10)5927 7120