The old cliché that health is wealth is timeless, always pertinent and relevant and a scientific truth many of us have taken for granted…until we later discover (sometimes too late) that, indeed, health is truly wealth.

Steve Wynn, 77, with a net worth of $3 billion, owns six 5-star casinos in Las Vegas and one in Macau. He is “going blind” from his incurable retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease of the eyes. He would surely be happy to give away one or two of his casinos (Bellagio, Mirage, Treasure Island, Wynn, Encore, Wynn Macau) to any one who could cure his illness and bring back his health.

There are other countless rich and famous who would have gladly paid millions to get a cure for their cancers or other deadly diseases, which had prematurely ended their life and stopped them from earning more. Yes, indeed, health is wealth, a personal commodity we cannot afford to lose, a treasure we must protect and nurture with care.

Below are some queries from our readers I have collected and grouped together by topics with my reply:

Do we really have bacteria in our hands?

Unwashed hands have about 3,200 bacteria from 150 different species. Yes, that’s no typo: 3,200. Surprised! Among them are Staphylococcus epidermidis, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Staphylococcus wameri, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staph aureus, and Enterobacter cloacae, S. hominis, coryneform bacteria, and the fungus Pityrosporum Malassezia, etc.

How dirty is money?

Money is definitely dirty and I am not figuratively talking about plundered money by amoral politicians or drug blood money. Coins and paper money have tons of germs, like those found in human hands, plus E.coli (from toilet users who do not wash their hands). Money goes around millions of times from person to person in the same city, other cities or States, or even countries. And not all persons are hygienic. There are over 100 strains of bacteria on dollar bills circulating around. Two of them are Propronibacterium acnes (acne-causing bacterium) and Streptococcus oralis found in the mouth. In some paper bills traces of cocaine are found on about 80 percent of them in some major cities, and also traces of amphetamines, heroin, morphine, and  persons’ DNA.

How often should we wash our hands?

The rule of thumb is at least 8 times a day: Before and after each meal (6), after using the bathroom (at least twice). Added to this are hand washing following activities such as cooking, gardening, house cleaning (indoor and outdoor). Touching hand rails, door knobs, other surfaces in public areas also contaminate our hands. If you are washing your hands less than 8 times a day, then you are allowing those 3,200 germs to thrive and contaminate food you eat with your bare hands. Surgeons scrub their hand for no less than 10 minutes by the clock, using germicidal soap solution, followed by alcohol wash, to prevent infection in their patients.

Are hand sanitizers better than soap and water?

No. Hand washing with regular soap and water even for 10 seconds is much better. The idea is to reduce the “dose” (number of bacteria) in the hands to allow our own immune system to fight the remaining few bugs. This is the same principle in surgical scrubs. After 10 minute scrub, surgeons hands could still have a few remaining bacteria. Hence, the added alcohol wash and use of sterile gloves. If hand washing in public places is not possible, hand sanitizers are acceptable temporary substitutes. Remember, these solutions are harsh drying agents. Use of skin lotion helps.

Can measles be transmitted by hands?

The main mode of transmission of the measles virus is by droplet (particles of  virus floating in the air from patient’s breath inhaled by others) but this virus could also thrive on surfaces (tables, chair, spoons, etc) and records show that the examining room could still be infectious two hours after the measles patient has left. If you touch any surface with infected droplets, and touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could get infected yourself if you are not vaccinated, and spread the virus to other people by contact also. By the way, the MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella, or German Measles) vaccines are protective for at least 20 years, but others get lifetime immunity from them. If in doubt, get tested for antibody, to find out if you are still immune. If not, re-vaccination is recommended, because measles could have deadly complications.

How much bacteria are in our mouth?

Yes, all orifices and our entire body have germs. As long as our protective skin and mucosa (shiny lining membrane of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc) and skin are intact, no bacteria can get in and cause infection. Those who do oral hygiene have about 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria on EACH tooth, and those who do not, have between 100 million to one billion on EACH tooth. More than 700 varying strains of germs have been detected in human mouth. At any given moment, there are between 34 to 200 species of germs in our mouth. Most are harmless and are beneficial bacteria which act as pro-biotics to help in the digestion. Others cause tooth and gum diseases.

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath or halitosis comes from sulfur gas, which is produced when bacteria in the mouth act on protein that is in saliva and in the decaying foods (especially meats). The Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSCs) are resistant to many mouth washes, except to Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide which comes in various brand names here and abroad, and which are effective, in together with brushing and flossing at least 3 times a day. Some mouth rinse solutions only mask the odor but Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide actually neutralizes VSCs and garlic breath, etc. Brushing alone is not enough; food stuck between the teeth, especially meat, rot over time. The halitosis, if neglected, could be so severe as to smell like decaying dead animals. Gross, indeed.

How many times should we brush our teeth?

Brushing (meticulously) and dental flossing after each meal including snacks, followed by a mouth rinse that contains Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide, plus regular dental check-up at least every 6 months, provide good oro-dental health. Dental and gum diseases increase the risk for cardiovascular illnesses, which include heart attack and stroke.  Any inflammation in the body is bad for overall health.

These two habits (hand-washing and comprehensive oral hygiene) are wise investments that yield great dividends. Health is a priceless wealth.

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com and philipSchua.com   Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com

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