The mention of Cardiovascular (pertaining to heart and blood vessels) diseases may cause goose-pimples to spring up on some of us but I doubt this fear has anything to do with the many letters that make up the word but rather the life-changing effects they can cause in our lives.
When condom taxes and tax reforms, fuel price increases, market fires, pink sheets and mind-boggling traffic even on the ‘Tema Motor-Way” take centre stage in media discussions there is the tendency to relegate our health to the background but that may rather be a grave mistake. I do not have data to back this claim but a cursory look at most health facilities in the past few weeks gives me the impression that the crowds are really getting out of hand. I am sure of one thing many of the people visiting these facilities are not there for sight-seeing and neither are they there to complain of diarrhoea, vomiting, symptoms suggestive of malaria or even coughs that never seem to go away. These people are really “sick” and their conditions may be such that they will continue to make regular visits to these facilities and leave with a cocktail of medication that they hold onto like their very lives depend on them; well at this stage that may actually be true.
Many of these people; both young and old may be suffering from conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, previous heart attack, diseases of the heart wall, some other blood vessel diseases and even diseases of valves within the heart and the medical fraternity refer to these conditions as Cardiovascular Diseases – a self descriptive name. The simple truth about these diseases is that we have the power as individuals to determine our destiny whether we are the first family in the land or in a remote village where we have not even heard about market fires. Yes! You may not be able to influence condom taxes, talk-tax and tax on tax but you have the power to prevent, control or even reverse the devastation of Cardiovascular Diseases. So even in times of belt-tightening we should not neglect our health, this is the time we need to function at our optimum.
Our risk of developing these diseases unlike malaria and food poisoning may be influenced by factors such as the family we are born into, our age (telling the world you are younger will not protect you), gender (males in more trouble once again) and our ethnicity ( where we come from). Last time I checked we have absolutely no control over these factors. Certainly you have no way of selecting your family and you will age once you cry for the first time. Are newborn babies crying as a way to clear fluid from their lungs or are they smart enough to sense that they had more peace wherever they came from? It may be their way of protesting without placards or striking. Maybe that is why they decide not to walk for several months and make sure their parents get the least sleep possible. I am not sure medical science can answer these questions even when the “learned folks” suggest it to us.
We may not be able to modify or influence some factors but God in his wisdom gave us a caveat; there are several other extremely important factors that increase our risk for cardiovascular diseases that we have all the ammunition to control and they are common things that we often take for granted. They are referred to as modifiable risk factors and include;
1. High Cholesterol
2. High Blood Pressure
5. Lack of adequate physical activity or exercise
6. Cigarette Smoking
The list above summarizes the story; except in the case of cigarette smoking, increasing physical activity is the single factor that can help to control all the modifiable risk factors. What we eat is as always as important as how much we move.
Dyslipidaemia (cholesterol challenges) is probably the most important of all these factors when it comes to cardiovascular diseases. The three Musketeers in lipid profile, HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol) and Triglycerides (sugary cholesterol) play important roles. The HDL tries to mop up the damage of narrowing the blood vessels that its colleagues are busily working to ensure. Cholesterol has important functions to play in our bodies but when the levels are high then we are running into dangerous territory. If you do not know your cholesterol levels check it immediately.
Make sure you have your blood pressure and diabetes under control. Remember that it is almost impossible to manage these lifestyle conditions optimally with only medication; what you eat and the physical activities you undertake will lead to a “happy ending”(depends on what makes you happy I guess).
Lace your boots and get your dose of exercise. Your prescription for almost every condition can include some form of exercise and you should ask your healthcare provider what is appropriate for you. This is no secret: when it comes to the benefits of exercise you cannot rely on past glory so telling the whole world you were an athlete while in school will not protect you from cardiovascular diseases now that you are over forty years old with a pot belly and high cholesterol whose only claim to physical activity is the frequent walks to the bathroom that may have been necessitated by uncontrolled diabetes.
You have everything it takes to modify many of the factors that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease so go ahead and make the changes you have been postponing all year.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S a PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club
*Dr Essel is a medical doctor and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – It has been said over and over again that” if there was a pill that conferred all the benefits of exercise, doctors will prescribe it to every patient” and I am sure we will all willingly swallow it.