Monday, April 15, 2024

EDITORIAL: Take charge of your health


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WE BARBADIANS ARE digging our graves with our teeth.

That, essentially, was the message from the Heart & Stroke Foundation in revealing that Barbadians’ changing lifestyles have created a situation where strokes and heart attacks are occurring among younger people, while children are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

The association lamented too that waistlines are becoming more expansive for both sexes, and worse, people are accepting this as the norm. The problem here is that the wider the waistline the greater the likelihood of developing a debilitating chronic non-communicable disease (CNCD) like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some cancers. And at worse, death.

The foundation’s chief executive officer Gina Pitts concluded that because of this trend, particularly among children, “we are basically sitting on a minefield of what potentially is going to happen in the next ten to 15 years”.

Of course, we have heard this in some form before. We therefore can’t deny we were not warned.

Not only are our lifestyle and eating habits killing us, but because of the expense of treatment, they are making us poorer as individuals, and as a country too.

About two weeks ago, Minister of Health John Boyce again sought to urge us to stop afflicting ourselves and change our ways.

In addressing the Imamia Medics International 7th International Conference at the Hilton Barbados, Boyce said CNCDs account for 80 per cent of total deaths here. Additionally, one-quarter of adult Barbadians have a CNCD and this statistic is expected to rise to one-third by 2030.

He explained that, given our current health profile, the ministry had redirected its focus to the promotion of healthy lifestyles with a view to decreasing risk factors for chronic diseases.

And he contended that the ministry’s focus was not only on disease prevention and treatment, but also on the determinants that contribute to the overall health of the population.

Boyce asserted that as 80 per cent of CNCDs were preventable using simple lifestyle interventions linked to behavioural change, the ministry’s aim was to combat the ill-effects of these diseases through the promotion of better nutrition and physical activity, the avoidance of tobacco consumption and a reduction in alcohol consumption.

That’s how the Government is trying to help us. But what are we doing for ourselves?

The blunt truth is that as individuals we are responsible for our actions – all of them.

That is, we are responsible for our behaviour, words, and actions – whether deliberate or unintentional – and the consequences of each.

This therefore means that we can only blame ourselves for the deteriorating state of our personal health.

Acknowledging and accepting this fact at an individual level, and collectively as a society, would help us to combat these problem of eating too much of the wrong things and not getting enough physical activity.

Put another way, the difference between many of us dropping dead from heart attacks, becoming paralysed from strokes, or taking diabetes medication each day until we die comes down to taking responsibility for our personal health.

So, come on, let’s do the right thing.


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