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Health News of Thursday, 27 March 2014

Source: Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Fuel your passion for health (2)

The past decade has seen many people hungry for ways to improve their health but with so much conflicting information easily available people have either given up or ended up being fixated on inappropriate options. Sometimes all you need is fuel for your passion to improve your lifestyle.
Last year a colleague (INT) interviewed me (KCE) on my thoughts on health and fitness and I reproduce the concluding part and I hope it serves as the right fuel.
INT: I can count over ten (10) diet plans and have seen people achieve great results on some of them. Which diet plan do you consider the best?
KCE: Well you have greatly underestimated the figure. There are hundreds of diet plans and whenever you have so many “cooks” then you can confidently say that no one has the answer to all our needs. Yes people get results but remember that some people will get results no matter what you offer them.
I do not have a preference for any diet but I believe a balanced diet should be the central point of a good meal plan. Many of these plans break the rules because they are probably focusing on only one component – fat loss. We need to be clear about this; your diet or meals should not only control your weight, but it should also ensure that you have the right amount of energy, you are productive and your organs are functioning normally.
The DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) or Mediterranean diet has several positives and I think if we can adapt it to the foods in our country the incidence of many of the lifestyle diseases will be checked.
Our needs as individuals vary and it may be a good idea to see a dietician at least once in your lifetime. It should be mandatory if you have a lifestyle disease condition like high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol challenges among others.
INT: Quite often I hear you emphasize on the need to warm up and cool down before and after exercising respectively. Could you explain the rationale behind this?
KCE: Strictly speaking warming up and cooling down should be part of every exercise programme. Like many other things in life if you ignore these you may not be punished immediately but you will be harming yourself. Some people are not lucky and have even lost their lives simply because they skipped such vital steps. Suddenly stopping without cooling down for instance has resulted in people feeling dizzy and injuring themselves from a fall. Some may even throw up (vomit) and a host of other unpleasant events may occur.
The principle is simple; start slowly, just intense enough to break into a light sweat. It gets the heart pumping adequately to support the body and the muscles also go into “exercise mode”. Cooling down on the other hand brings the body to as close to resting state as possible. Both should last between three and five minutes but people with heart conditions for instance may even extend their warm-up and cool-down sessions. Please factor these into your exercise plan. Exercise is to improve or at worse maintain our current state and not to make things worse. Safety is paramount.
INT: Back and neck pain are extremely common these days, what may be driving this trend?
KCE: Many times our lives are too fast for our own good. We end up accomplishing little and spending a lot of time and tonnes of money trying to repair the damage we have caused.
I am sure you have heard the phrase “your chair could kill you”; literally it can. Too much sitting irrespective of the quality of the chair increases your risk of diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Then there is also the added danger of developing back and neck pain from sitting for long periods without a break. This is made worse when things are not arranged properly in our work area. Our posture is so crucial to our very existence; avoid sharp turns, do not bend at the waist to lift use your thighs instead. Push don’t pull or better still ask for help. Do not assume you are the king or queen of multitasking; avoid awkward postures like wedging your phone between your ear and shoulder while you type. This is a prescription for neck pain.
Neck and back pain alone account for many days lost from work and cost a lot of money to the individual, the company, the country and the world as a whole. We can reduce the incidence of these money snatchers simply by adopting common sense practices.
INT: Would you say medical examination or screening is the future of medicine?
KCE: In my opinion the future of medicine has and will always be preventive medicine. Medical screening is a component of preventive medicine because it helps you know your baseline so that you can quickly address deviations. It also helps you to nip even cancers in the bud because hopefully they will be found early. Always bear in mind that routine screening may miss certain diseases because we are not looking for them. This is why it is so CRUCIAL to have an idea of the diseases in one’s family. It is extremely important because it helps your doctor to modify your medical examination to suit your needs – more like customizing your screening process. Please find out what conditions exist in your family, what may have killed others etc. this is another reason why postmortem is lifesaving (who would have thought so).
INT: Many of us seem to have a culture of relying on the advice of friends when we have to take medication. Do you think there are any significant downsides to this?
KCE: There are downsides and in many instances they may cause outright murder. Yes by all means speak to a friend, research on the internet do anything to get more information BUT at the end of the day make the decision with your doctor/pharmacist. Many of these curbside doctors assume that all medicines work the same for everyone. They do not consider that you may have other conditions that may have informed your doctor to make a particular choice. Take a drug for controlling blood pressure for instance; many people will swear that a day after starting the medication they will become impotent. How practical can this be? Well you may still become impotent if you do not take the medication and even worse you may get other complications like a stroke, heart or kidney failure. Remember this is 2014, talk to your doctor and make appropriate choices. Get a second opinion if that helps but by all means take your medication as prescribed.
INT: You have run several health programmes for senior citizens in the past, what advice do you have for those reading this interview?
KCE: I have a special place in my heart for senior citizens. In our part of the world when you go past the 60 year mark, you are blessed, doing something right or both.
I think our senior citizens should always remember that irrespective of one’s age and medical conditions there are appropriate exercises that will benefit them. Keep moving at the very least.
We should also remember that falls are real and they should do everything possible to reduce that risk. Have their eyes checked regularly and heed to the medical advice given. After 65 years I doubt if you have any business using a bath-tub; get a shower with a stool for sitting and a bar for support when necessary. Ensure the floor of the bath is not slippery. Finally always think safety; if there are grandchildren at home ensure toys are not scattered because they are known to cause trips leading to falls. Cables on the floor are also very dangerous. Stay healthy and socialize and it will help you enjoy life.
INT: What are your greatest fears?
KCE: I worry a lot about the scourge of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease such as stroke, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure and many others. Though most of us living today will die of a cardiovascular disease, we are not doing much to curb this trend. Fortunately for us many of the risk factors for these diseases are modifiable and a relatively cheap alternative. These risk factors include; high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and inadequate physical activity. Except for smoking, diet modification and exercise positively affect all the other risk factors. Sometimes you may need medication in addition to the lifestyle modification to get to a safe place. Please take as prescribed when the need arises.
I believe now that we know what is most likely to kill us, we will defend ourselves by attacking these demons. Well a good form of defense is to attack. I am not sure if it’s the best in every aspect as we used to think. Maybe that is for a later discussion.

INT: What are your final words for us today?
KCE: I believe the most efficient way to reach ones realistic health goal is to make small healthy choices daily. Don’t wait for the big day to make a dramatic turnaround. Start with one healthy choice today and others will follow.
You should always remember that we can make the best out of life when we laugh often, walk and pray every day and remember that knowing our numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and BMI) is a priceless gift.
Thank You.

Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club