Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (above) has advised Malaysians to read newspapers every day to help keep the mind active.
In his column published by the New Sunday Times today under the heading "Here's my recipe for staying healthy", he says, when talking or making speeches, memory of words and phrases and the alternatives would spring to the mind easily with regular reading.
And if one does not read or seldom reads, the words do not come spontaneously when talking or making a speech.
"Reading newspapers every day also helps to keep the mind active and improves the capacity to form words and phrases.
"It is normal for an old person to remember incidents in the past than recent incidents. Even this can be improved with reading and talking," writes Dr Mahathir.
The 94-year-old prime minister devotes much of the column to answering the one question people repeatedly asked him about - his ability to function at this late age.
"I feel obliged to explain about my experience even if it is not based on scientific study. Frankly, I don't know how I am what I am. All I can say is that I have been fortunate in not suffering from the diseases that shorten one's life,” he said.
Dr Mahathir says he did have a heart attack 30 years ago, but he survived, adding that heart attacks are not as fatal as they used to be.
He points out that many things are within our control and we should do our best to control ourselves so that we stay healthy and live to a ripe old age.
"Self-discipline, or the ability to control what we can do in life, is life-saving. We must always try to control our desires,” he explains.
A good eating habit is Dr Mahathir's first recipe to stay healthy, saying people should eat to live and not live to eat.
"The body really does not need a lot of food except when one is young and growing. For them the food is needed to ensure good bodily growth. Still, the amount of food must not be more than what is needed.
"Obesity often follows overeating, even among children and the young. And obesity is not good for health and longevity."
He says children grow fat because doting parents insist on them taking a lot of food, which they should not.
Instead parents should teach their children to eat more fruits and vegetables and less rice or carbohydrates, and certainly less sugar.
Elaborating on obesity, which afflicts a very high percentage of Malaysians, Dr Mahathir says the problem usually begins at the age of 40 as the tendency at that age is to eat as much tasty food as is available.
The stomach responds to the bigger intake by becoming bigger and when this happens, more food is needed to assuage the feeling of hunger, and this results in weight gain, and obesity is bad for health.
With a big body, the heart has to work harder to deliver blood and absorb food, and to cope with the heavier work, the heart enlarges while the blood pressure goes up, bringing with it all kinds of related symptoms and diseases.
"So, in order to avoid blood pressure diseases, eat less and don't grow fat. Besides the heart, the other organs of the body, i.e. the liver, kidneys and pancreas will all be overstressed. Any one of these organs may fail and shorten life," he says.