Your valentine needs you alive and fit

Sat, 14 Feb 2015 Source: Essel, Kojo Cobba

It’s that time of the year once again when people may engage in excesses all in the name of Valentine’s Day. What is the point of a valentine whose heart has been lovingly neglected over time and gallops and misses beats not because the love of its life is close by but for the simple reason that its “landlord” has ignored the basics of heart health and has been patiently mismanaged sometimes with the able assistance of a healthcare professional.

I am glad the bizarre excesses of Valentine’s Day a few years gone by seem to have toned down but certainly the attempt to make it a National Day of Chocolate has been an exercise in futility because no one has shown enough commitment to bring it to life. Have you bought any chocolate yet?

Yes, Cocoa in its least processed form has huge benefits to the heart and blood vessels; blood pressure and blood sugar control and an alledged positive effect on cholesterol. These conditions are three of the major modifiable risk factors for heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. So we may infer that pure cocoa drinks and dark chocolate in controlled portions may be ideal supplements to preserve your heart for your valentine. Do remember that cocoa products can in no way replace your medication for these disease conditions, so never ever substitute them.’

You do not need a crystal ball to confidently predict that majority of us will die from a cardiovascular disease and for many of us both young and old death may occur suddenly because we have never bothered to check our health status. So put in your best to stay alive and fit for your valentine by adopting these tried and tested facts:

1. STOP Smoking and prevent others from smoking.

a. Once upon a time, puffing the smoke of death was fashionable (maybe from a lack of adequate knowledge?) but certainly in 2015, a healthy lifestyle is in vogue. If you do not smoke, why should you inhale smoke from others (passive smoking)?

b. 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.

c. Note that tobacco in every form is dangerous to your health. Do not think you are safe if you chew tobacco products.

2. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables

a. 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” (gari and beans) 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!

b. We probably should consider buying fruits when they are in season since they are much cheaper at the time

c. 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.

d. The option of having a small garden is great but many of us do not have the luxury of space to do that

3. Eat a healthy diet

a. LOW in saturated fats

i. 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.

b. LOW in refined carbohydrates

i. 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.

c. LOW in salt

i. 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.

4. Increase levels of physical activity

a. 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.

b. For most of us 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.

c. 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

5. Know your family

a. Many disease conditions run in families and it is important that we find out what diseases our relatives may have and what conditions they died from especially if death came at a young age.

b. When you are armed with information about your family you are motivated to take the right precautions and also with the aid of your doctor you may do “non-routine” medical examinations during your annual check-ups.



Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel

Moms’ Health Club


*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.

Thought for the week – “Increase your level of physical activity daily; it WILL help you fight stress. Stress among several others may raise your blood sugar, affect your mood and cause you to underperform in many areas.”


1. www.mayoclinic.com

2. www.healthclubsgh.com

Columnist: Essel, Kojo Cobba