Over the past three weeks, I seem to be bombarded with challenges involving the heart and mental health and it appears it’s an appropriate time to dig into the archives to reproduce an article I wrote in 2011. It is over a decade ago but the principles have remained essentially the same. We are losing many lives and people are developing major complications of diseases needlessly. We have the power to turn things around for the better if we are willing to make “small healthy choices daily”.
Together with its members, the World Heart Federation spreads the news that at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, are controlled.
The main modifiable risk factors (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, inadequate physical activity and cigarette smoking) appear easy to control so what is preventing us from doing just that? My answer may surprise you but I sincerely think it’s because humans want complex solutions and do not appreciate fully that simple behavioural changes can solve the problem. Some of us even love to spend money to buy pills to “fix the problem” quickly. Of course when it comes to food, the most saliva-inducing and tasty ones are quite often the killers but you could certainly enjoy healthy food as well.
- STOP Smoking and prevent others from smoking (in your presence).
- Once upon a time, puffing the smoke of death was fashionable (maybe from a lack of adequate knowledge?) but certainly in 2022, a healthy lifestyle is in vogue. If you do not smoke, why should you inhale smoke from others (passive smoking)? I spent all week looking for a good reason to smoke and found none. An okro mouth whispered into my ear that it helps him control his weight. Really and at what cost?
- The downsides of smoking or being a passive smoker are many and include strokes, lung, bladder, mouth and throat cancers, heart disease, gastric ulcer, chronic bronchitis and risks to an unborn baby.
- Note that tobacco in every form is dangerous to your health. Do not think you are safe if you chew tobacco products.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables
- In Ghana and other developing countries we often want something that will fill our stomach and stay there for as long as possible. Why do you think “concrete” is so revered in this great land of ours? Start the day with a hefty dose and top it up with frequent gulps of water. We always come up with a 1001 reasons why eating fruits could lead to instant “pocketitis” and may signal the beginning of a third world war in many homes. We love to get into unnecessary arguments about whether fruits should be eaten before or after meals etc, just eat them!
- We probably should consider buying fruits when they are in season since they are much cheaper at the time
- Kontomire, cassava leaves and garden eggs, are great vegetables that will not cost you an arm and a leg. You also have the option of the cabbages, lettuces etc.
- The option of having a small garden is great but many of us do not have the luxury of space to do that
- Eat a healthy diet
- LOW in saturated fats
- Saturated fats can be found in animal products such as meat, milk, cheese and butter but be careful of plant products such as palm oil. Limit these or simply stay away from them.
- LOW in refined carbohydrates
- Our tongues have the power to make or unmake us – talking and eating are 2 examples of paths that can spell doom. We love sugar, perfumed rice (white), white flour, pasta (macaroni) and white bread and will make excuses to skip brown rice for instance.
- LOW in salt
- This is as simple as it is stated. Reduce the salt you put in food. Avoid adding salt to already cooked food. Flee from salted snacks and watch artificial flavouring.
- Increase levels of physical activity
- This is no drill on exercising but sitting in the sofa all evening or sitting at your desk for hours on end has not yet produced a healthy being. Household chores, gardening, walking even if it means while on the phone, using the stairs instead of the elevator all add up. The more you move the better for you. Dear friend moving the TV remote does not account for much but maybe if you could walk to the TV to change channels or make other modifications then you would be on the right path.
- For most of us mild to moderate intensity exercise is just what the doctor prescribed. Extreme exercising could actually cause a dip in your immunity and we definitely do not need that. So let’s just keep it moderate so that we can reap all the benefits.
- Change is good but variety is even better. The body gets “bored” when we do the same things all the time. It adapts to the situation and there are hardly any additional benefits. Spice up life by changing your exercise or physical activity regime and you will begin to make great strides.
Changing these habits and behaviours is possible but we need to be committed. Whatever we are today is by the grace of God and the choices we made before today. Make healthy choices that will protect your heart and it will continue to perform well for many years to come.
Today many people have died from a heart disease, and others have gained HEART HEALTH, which group would you rather join? This is a great time to check your numbers: Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar, Blood Lipids (cholesterol).
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ Mobissel
*Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “The world seems to be running at an incredible pace, whenever you catch yourself being overwhelmed, STOP, BREATHE & CALM YOURSELF.”
- World Heart Federation Website
- The Ten Commandments For A Healthy & Enjoyable Life: Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
- Unravelling The Essentials of Health & Wealth (2019) – Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel