[VIEWPOINT]When too much means ill health

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[VIEWPOINT]When too much means ill health

It happened when I was learning to swim. I would become short of breath after swimming just 50 meters freestyle. One day I found out I hadn’t been breathing out enough and was instead focusing too much on breathing in. It happened because I was thinking that I didn’t have enough air. After I practiced exhaling enough, I was able to swim freestyle easily without inhaling deeply. I could also keep breathing comfortably in long-distance running by breathing out as well as in. The lungs have to be emptied of carbon dioxide and filled with fresh oxygen. Because carbon dioxide in my lungs wasn’t being pushed out, the air in my lungs wasn’t fresh enough. My brain recognized that I didn’t have enough air and kept breathing in more, but was overlooking one important factor: I had to empty the bad air before I filled up on the good.
If the airway becomes narrow due to a bronchial disorder, it becomes hard to breathe out. When you breathe in, a negative pressure in the lung pulls the walls of the airway in and widens it, but the opposite happens when you breathe out. When a patient breathes out more strongly to accelerate clearing of the airway, the pressure of the air in the lungs escalates and presses the airway, making it tight, and the vicious cycle continues. Many bronchial disorder patients have a hard time not because they don’t have enough air but because they are unable to get rid of enough air.
Some patients that find it hard to urinate properly have damaged kidneys. The kidney damage in this case often occurs because they are unable to get rid of their urine. When urine fails to be excreted, it can flow up to the kidney due to pressure from the bladder and this leads to a high chance of inflammation in the kidney. If a hole is made in the bladder for urine to come out freely, the bladder can be exposed to germs outside but it does help greatly in preventing damage to the kidney. Urine in the bladder normally has germs anyway and these germs proliferate with time. If enough urine is emptied from the bladder, a sufficient number of germs will be reduced also. On the other hand, if there is not enough urination, a lot of germs will be left in the bladder and, if this occurs repeatedly, the number of germs will increase, causing inflammation. It is much like how water stagnates. When you wash your clothes, if you spin-dry them enough the first time, you do not have to use a lot of water when you rinse them with water the second time. If the clothes aren’t spin-dried enough the first time and twice as much soapy water remains, then you need twice as much water to wash out the clothes afterwards.
A lot of people complain about signs of stress. The causes of stress are important, but the methods of preventing stress are also important. If you solve one cause of stress you can relax for a while, but we often see that the next stressful issue comes up before you know it. It is more important to have an attitude of accepting the causes of stress than trying to avoid them. If you don’t get rid of greed, think on a large scale and stay relaxed, the hardships of stress will not go away. A person who lives using 100 percent of his potential has a higher chance of living a short life than a person who lives using 80 to 90 percent of his potential. They say that athletes who participate in highly competitive sports live short lives.
The human body has ailments that are caused by a lack of something that our body needs. However, the physical and mental ailments that we suffer from in these days of high quality life are ailments that are caused by having too much or being unable to get rid of something that we have to much of. Many geriatric diseases are linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood levels of fatty acids, high blood pressure and too much greed and stress. Too much of something can easily make you unhappy. We should think about whether or not we are throwing away things that we ought to, in order to be fresh and not become like stagnant water.

* The writer is the dean of the Medicine College of Seoul National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Wang Kyu-chang
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