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Feature Article of Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Columnist: Ukaoma, Chuks U. C.

Obesity: Is It Evidence of Good Living ,,,,

,,,,,,and Wealth Or Race To Health Problems?

Nothing in life stops us human beings in our track and cause us to rethink our own mortality like a recent premature demise of a loved one. When it befalls a family, it can reverberate, leaving broken hearts in its wake. When young children are left behind, that pains stay with each child forever. I was a teenager when my father died relatively young from a weight-related disease. Thirty-plus years later, I still miss him dearly. If untimely death does not cause one to reassess one's life and try to improve it, perhaps, nothing could or would.

There is an unspoken belief in Nigeria: no one dies naturally, everyone gets murdered. We have met the murderer; the murderer is us! We're killing ourselves through our harmful dietary and inactivity habits.

There seems to be a rash of death these days: The old and the young, the rich and the poor, female and male, the educated and less educated, the religious and the atheists. Why are so many people dying young both abroad and in Nigeria? Are some of these premature deaths and sufferings preventable? Could obesity be a major contributor? Above all, what's one doing to better one's odds of living a healthier and longer life?

It's given that every living human will die one day. However, there is death and then there is premature death. It's one thing to live a prosperous life, most of it in good heath, and entirely something else to pass away at an early age with last years spent in poor health. There are persons born with or who develop serious health issues through no fault of theirs. Heck, there are non-smokers who die from lung cancer, and chain smokers who never develop that terrible disease. My heart goes out to these people and to those too poor to afford healthy meals. History teaches us life's road is full of curves and potholes and blind spots!

One doesn't have to be in the medical field to know the importance of regular exercises, better diets, and stress reducing measures. Health knowledge is one thing, putting that knowledge to practical use is something else. There are folks who know better but are still overweight, smoke, drink too much or engage in detrimental habits, with their children right there being home-schooled in those lifestyles.

Making lifestyle changes are very difficult even for those with strong willpower. What I've gone through (in the last decade trying to lose a mere 50 pounds) has humbled me to appreciate the challenges of losing weight. I can't imagine how much harder it's to quit smoking, illegal and prescription drugs abuse. The good news is most of us can take the bull by the horn and make a positive change in our lives. We can do it, you can do it, anyone with desire can do it with little encouragement from friends and family.

Obesity is a serious health problem in the world, per credible scientific and medical organizations. Many societies are trying to stem the over-weight tide. However, in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, obesity is widely encouraged as evidence of good living and wealth. You can see this in the images of rich Nigerian leaders and their families. The unofficial motto seems to be: the fatter, the better. The younger generations are following in this blind match towards the health cliff. The looming over-weight calamity is upon us in Nigeria and abroad. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you need to improve your own health.

This obesity trend, according to health experts, is a race to Type II diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, joint problems, stroke, hypertension, heart attack, kidney, and vision complications. How can one prevent or (at least) manage these health problems via regular exercises and healthier diets? The high saturated fat content of (tropical) palm oil is terrible, yet it's in virtually all Nigerian meals.

Weather you domicile in Nigerian or abroad, make it a point to cut out or drastically curtail alcohol, meat, sugar, fried foods, tropical (palm)oil, and replace them with healthy whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts/legumes (beans, lentils and peas). Start or top it off with regular exercises, such as walking, jogging, bicycling, weights, yoga, tennis, Pilate, etc. When friends come over, instead of sitting and drinking and eating unhealthy foods, get on your bicycles, walk, jog, and munch on healthy fruits. Good friends help their friends live longer.

Another great thing about adopting healthier lifestyle is even one does not live long for whatever reason, one can enjoy better health in the span one lived. Who wants to exist hobbled by diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and poor health, if one can prevent or reduce it?

Read the American Heart Association's "Face The Fats" . Make that positive change and spur a friend to join you. Let us all adopt healthier lifestyles and reap the benefits for ourselves and our loved ones.

Chuks U.C. Ukaoma resides in Austin, Texas, USA. Read his other articles on this and Yahoo website. Email: chuksucukaoma@yahoo.com

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