#Article (Archive)

Health is wealth, learn to live longer, prevention is better than cure

May 22, 2012, 1:13 PM

Dr Azadeh, senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia’s medical school, explains the connection between health and wealth and gives some tips for better living.

‘Health is wealth.’ The apparent simplicity of this phrase conceals a complex meaning.  Through the years, in many societies around the world, health has become synonymous with wealth. The two concepts may be linked by analogy: health is as valuable as money. Without it, one surely would not enjoy anything in life. One would not be able to appreciate the beauty of each day and acknowledge the joys that come from even the simplest encounters with family and friends.

Health is also linked with money in a practical sense. Without good health, people are not able to work productively. People need to work to be able to generate income to live. Yet one cannot work if one is ill and incapable of physical activity. Even office jobs require the good health of employees, because one’s mental state is affected by poor physical condition.

Three tips for living healthily

We all need to take measures in order to attain good and lasting health. Doing so will enable us to maximize our body’s capacity, enabling us to take opportunities to earn more and live a better quality of life. Here are some simple and effective guidelines that will help you attain and maintain good health.

1. Live a good and healthy lifestyle. Jobs today increasingly entail sedentary lifestyles. People are often required to sit down in front of computers all day.  Many people nowadays do not get enough physical exercise meaning that many tend to become obese, hypertensive and weak. Combat this by going to the gym at least twice a week and work out so that you sweat out all your fats and cholesterol accumulation.

2. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet. If you regularly eat unhealthy foods you will get bloated. This is because it has been found that some unhealthy foods are the main culprits of obesity, high blood pressure, and heart diseases due to their fat content. Therefore, eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid lard and fatty foods. Do not eat too much palm oil and try to eat more healthy vegetable foods.

3. Quit unhealthy vices and habits. Smoking is the top bad habit. Time and again, health regulators have warned about the dangers of smoking. Aside from causing lung cancer, the habit can also cause severe medical conditions such as bronchitis, cough, asthma and even early onset of aging. Drinking too much alcoholic beverages is equally bad, as is substance abuse.

Preventing high blood pressure

High blood pressure (also called ‘hypertension’) is a common ailment, affecting one in three people worldwide. It increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure among other illnesses. The World Health Organisation has classified it as one of the leading causes of preventable death in the world.

High blood pressure is becoming increasingly common in The Gambia. You can help prevent high blood pressure by:

1. Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight can make you two to six times more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

2. Getting regular exercise. People who are physically active have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure (between 20%-50% lower) than people who are not active. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to benefit from physical activity. Even light activities, if done daily, can help lower your risk.

3. Reducing salt intake. Often, when people with high blood pressure cut back on salt, their blood pressure falls. Cutting back on salt also prevents blood pressure from rising.

4. Reduce your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.

5. Reduce stress. Stress can make blood pressure go up and over time may contribute to the causes of high blood pressure. There are many steps you can take to reduce your stress.

Dietary supplement roundup

Other things, like dietary supplements, may also help prevent high blood pressure. Here’s some advice.

1. Potassium. Eating foods rich in potassium will help protect some people from developing high blood pressure. You probably can get enough potassium from your diet, so a supplement isn’t necessary. Many fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and fish are good sources of potassium.

2. Calcium. Populations with low calcium intakes have high rates of high blood pressure. However, it has not been proven that taking calcium tablets will prevent high blood pressure. But it is important to be sure to get at least the recommended amount of calcium from the foods you eat: 1,000  mg per day for adults 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 mg for those over 50 (pregnant and breastfeeding women also need more). Dairy foods like low-fat selections of milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium. Low-fat and non-fat dairy products have even more calcium than the high-fat types.

3. Magnesium. A diet low in magnesium may make your blood pressure rise. But doctors don’t recommend taking extra magnesium to help prevent high blood pressure; the amount you get in a healthy diet is enough. Magnesium is found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dry peas and beans.

4. Fish oils. A type of fat called ‘omega-3 fatty acids’ is found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon. Large amounts of fish oils may help reduce high blood pressure, but their role in prevention is unclear. Taking fish oil pills is not recommended because high doses can cause unpleasant side effects. The pills are also high in fat and calories. Of course, most fish, if not fried or made with added fat, is low in saturated fat and calories and can be eaten often.

5. Garlic. There has been some evidence to suggest garlic’s effect in lowering blood pressure in addition to improving cholesterol and reducing some cancers. Further research is being conducted to fully assess garlic’s potential health benefits.

For further information you can visit any Government hospital, NGO and private hospitals and clinics, the Point health section and Dr Azadeh on weekdays between 3-6pm.