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04.08.2003 Feature Article

Our Health, Our Lifestyle

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As we think and get anxious about our beloved Ghana, we must take some few minutes and look at our health and the way we live. Currently we live in a world in which we do not have a lot of control over our personal lives. We have become pure cogs in the wheel of the industrialized world. We have to stop and find time to take good care of our physical selves if we are to be healthy and contribute positively to our own future and that of Ghana. Devastatingly, quite a significant number of Ghanaians died between October 2002 and December 2002 in New York /New Jersey metropolitan area. A sizeable number were between the ages of 40 and 55. What we have done is moved away from our traditional eating habits and lifestyle. Cancer, Stroke, heart attack and diabetes have become more prevalent. Obviously we cannot return to our old ways of living and so we have to make adjustments in the way we live. We have to recognize that our health can be controlled by our lifestyle. There are definitely some genetic factors (those we have been born with) that we cannot control. We can however reduce their impact by eating right, exercising and living in a less stressful environment (your home and work place). A medical researcher in East Africa once wrote “in Africa, if you don’t speak English, you don’t have cancer”. Simply put the further one moved away from Western Style of life the better a person’s chance of evading cancer. In short, we have to eat more naturally. Our Achilles’ heel is processed food, white rice, white bread, mashed potato, sugar, and hamburgers etc. Processed foods are not bad, but the amount we eat and what we eat them with. Eating white bread and that waxy “blue band” margarine is cumulatively very subversive to our health. Our body metabolism naturally slows down after one hit 30 years. The body does not need that much energy and so the processed food and sugar are quickly converted to energy and the fats and oils are stored. Eating reasonable amounts of fruits and vegetables have been drummed up so much in every medical journal that they have become boring. Boring or not, that is the truth. Fruits and vegetables are the most natural sources of energy and nutrients for adults. The body needs them to properly function especially after age 30. They contain vital anti-oxidants and nutrients that help the body fight off diseases and thus repel attacks on our health. Fortunately, nature has provided us with abundant vegetables and fruits. We can eat Kontomire (spinach or kale leaf for those not so lucky). Basically the health advice is to eat a lot of greens. Select the vegetables you enjoy eating and make them daily features of your diet.

We cannot discount fruits from our daily eating menu. We should make sure we eat lots of fruits. The most common are apples, oranges, bananas and mangoes. There are so many varieties of fruits. Chose those you enjoy and eat lots of it. The key to developing a good eating lifestyle is enjoying the highly nutritional food you have selected. If you have been stranded outside Africa, you can choose kiwis, apples, plums, peaches, apricots, and others. Fruits are good for our bodies because they “soften” our stomach. While we are eating fruits and vegetables, we get to cut down on carbohydrates, fats and excessive proteins. Medical science has never contended that carbohydrates, fats and proteins are not good for us. The fact is that the body needs less of these when we get older. We should also not underrate the nutritional value of whole grains and beans. There are a wide variety of them; Quaker oats, brown rice, wheat, millet, whole corn, black-eye beans, chick- peas (aboboye), kidney beans. If you love white rice, cut down on the rice and add beans. You could also add natural wheat grains and cook them together. Try this with the rice and if you enjoy it, you have killed two birds with one stone. The nutritional benefits of whole grains and beans are that they help supply important vitamins and minerals with the bonus of their acting as the body’s scavengers. They help the body expel excesses and toxins. They also provide much-needed antioxidants, which have been proven to assist the body fight off diseases. As we get older we have to reduce the amount of meat that we eat. While we get a considerable supply of proteins and iron from meat it is also loaded with cholesterol which by now we all know can clog our arteries and endanger our health. If we insist on eating meat, we must make sure we trim the fat to minimize the amount of cholesterol. Better still we can shift to eating more fish. We not only get ample supply of proteins from fish, but also get omega 3 oils. Omega 3 oil has been proven to contain HDL (the good cholesterol) which helps prevent heart diseases and stroke. The best fish are; salmon, tilapia, porgies, bluefish and snapper. If you become bored with the fish you can eat chicken or fowl. Do not forget to trim the fat and avoid eating the skin. The healthiest way to cook your fish, meat or poultry is to boil or bake them. Let us try and minimize frying. Medical science says our body consists of 90% water (too bad we cannot fish in it). Water is very essential to our physical well-being. We cannot afford to lose too much water or simply get dehydrated. It is recommended that we drink 8 cups (8oz) of water daily. Practically the first substance that should go into our digestive system after we wake up in the morning should be water. If you cannot drink that much water, then eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Watermelon, oranges, pineapples and lettuce for examples contain a lot of water. If you are under medical condition such as congenital heart disease (CHD), consult your doctor. Water helps the digestive system which results in our moving our bowels regularly. Moving the bowels helps our bodies eliminate toxins and wastes in which bad cells multiply and do damage to our overall health. We have to recognize that it is not only what we eat but also when we eat. The best time to eat is morning and afternoon. (Those who work overnight must make their own adjustments). Our body’s ability to breakdown food is at its best when we are active. Nighttime eating contributes to the most weight gain. It is like opening your store after all the customers have gone home. You are stuck with the merchandise unsold. Try and eat at least 2 hours before you sleep. If you do come home late and hungry, eat some fruits or very light snack. Probably one of the worst technological inventions is the remote control. There are remotes for TVs, air conditioners, sound systems and garage doors. Already, we don’t exercise. Our minimum chances of waking up our body cells for them to do their jobs, technology has squashed them. What do we do? Throw away the remote? Hell no. Get out of your armchair and go and do some serious workout and come and enjoy the remote. Life is about balance. I don’t mean go and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Take it methodically. Select exercises, which you can enjoy. You don’t have to go to the park and run. You can run around your block or home. If running is too punishing for you joints and muscles, just walk. If you decide to walk, allocate adequate time and walk a lot and briskly. Good health is worth it. However don’t push your body beyond its physical limit. When you get tired, rest. It is strongly advised that you consult your doctor if you have a medical condition before you start any exercising program. If you have not been exercising it is never too late. Shake those bones and muscles. I once asked my father what has been the secret behind his longevity and he said; “the body is like a car, when it sits too long, it rusts”. The reward of exercising couldn’t have been put more succinctly. The human body consists of individual cells when we do get lazy and don’t exercise they do like wise. We need to put some charges in our cells, so that they can do their jobs properly as a group. Active body cells make for a healthy body. A healthy body is our body’s first line of defense against illness and diseases. When we do not exercise and eat properly, we gain weight. Our vital organs like the heart, liver, kidney and lungs stop growing basically after 30, sometimes earlier. Excessive weight overtaxes these organs and lead to malfunctions and breakdowns. Just imagine a Toyota Corolla’s engine in a Landcrusier! It is imperative that we ease the stress in our immediate social environment. Domestic peace is not only desired socially but also essential for our physical health. It is a medical fact that stress weakens our immune system. This means we became more susceptible to bacteria, viruses and other illnesses. We must make conscious effort to achieve domestic peace. We must avoid unnecessary arguments at home. We must learn to compromise and ignore some issues or incidents. Incessant bickering at home is very stressful. We can say the same about our work or job. Don’t force yourself into work situations in which you are not comfortable. Consider changing jobs as soon as practicable (talk is cheap – but you can try) when your work becomes very stressful. As Ghanaians, our record on medical check-up or physical is bad. We have to do annual check-ups. We must develop the habit of seeing the doctor when we get sick. It is undeniable fact that early diagnosis of any illness is crucial to controlling and or curing a disease. Routine check-ups give us our health’s balance sheet. There are a lot of Ghanaian doctors who will do routine check-ups for nominal fees if patients don’t have medical insurance. Take advantage of this. Let us try and reduce, “na onyare ooh, odaye a wansore” (he was not sick; he slept and did not wake up). If you manage to understand what I am writing about, my advice is; don’t be obsessed with your health. Just develop good habits – eat right, exercise and live with less tension in your daily life. Above all don’t forget the Almighty, who when lean on Him, we don’t fall – pray without ceasing. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwamina Mbra Panford
Kwamina Mbra Panford, © 2003

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwaminaMbraPanford

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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