The Head of the Cardiothoracic Centre of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, has advised Ghanaians to exercise regularly to reduce to the barest minimum their chances of getting any heart-related disease.
He, however, advised those he described as 'Sunday Tarzans' who do not exercise regularly but would one day want to over-work their bodies in a single session, saying the practice could lead to dire consequences.
The lack of exercise increases the body's risk of developing heart disease by 150 per cent.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng gave the advice after participating in a five-kilometre walk through some of the principal streets of Kumasi as part of activities marking World Heart Day.
The size of one's heart, after 18, is like one's fist and it does not increase in size again.
Therefore, if it is over-burdened by unhealthy lifestyles, it could lead to death.
According to the heart surgeon, the lifestyle of the individual contributes significantly to heart diseases, citing cigarette smoking as one habit which must be avoided at all cost.
He explained that cigarette smoking, apart from causing lung cancer, stroke and ulcer, could also increase the smoker's risk of contracting a heart disease two-fold, compared to non-smokers.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, who is also the President of the Ghana Heart Foundation, mentioned other habits that must be avoided and/or controlled as overeating, white sugar and high salt intake, excessive intake of alcohol, fatty meat and milk consumption.
He also advised against growing fat, since that could lead to gout, a disease that causes painful swelling in the joints, especially the toes, knees and fingers, and waist pains.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng explained further that alcohol intake is not good, especially when mixed with marijuana.
He said the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women was even more serious, as it could result in a condition called alcohol foetal syndrome which could affect the unborn baby.
He explained alcohol foetal syndrome as the condition in which the baby could be intelligent but would not be of any benefit to society because “he cannot use his intelligence for anything”.
On sugar, the medical expert explained that sugar in its normal state is not supposed to be white and that the whitish colour is given to it by the addition of a chemical which could increase one's risk of contracting a heart disease.
He recommended brown sugar or honey for consumption.
He also advised nursing mothers to practise exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to prevent their children from attacks from colds and catarrh.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, said the nation was still grappling with communicable diseases, the causes of which, he said, were filth and new lifestyle diseases which could largely be avoided by exercising regularly.
Additionally, he said the nation had only seven heart surgeons to deal with heart-related diseases in a population of about 22 million.
He, therefore, called for more preventive measures like eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.
The Ashanti Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Alhaji Dr Mohammed Ibn Ibrahim, told the gathering that if a diabetic had gone through the walk, his/her high blood sugar level would have reduced drastically to acceptable levels and stressed the need for diabetics to exercise regularly to keep their blood sugar levels down.
He said a patient who was hypertensive could have reduced his/her blood pressure from, say, 150/100 to 130/80.
He enumerated the advantages of exercise the body, adding that exercise improved the general well-being of the individual and also allowed for the right intake of oxygen into the body.
Dr Ibrahim stunned the crowd when he informed them that he visited a town in Israel where for 45 years nobody had died because of healthy living.
Heart disease and stroke are the world's number one killer, causing 17.5 million deaths each year.
Many people are not aware that their lifestyles and heritage could put them at risk.
Some contributing risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking can be controlled but others like gender and family history cannot be controlled.
According to medical experts, any one of the risk factors or a combination could make one vulnerable to heart diseases and stroke.
They, therefore, urge people to know their risk levels and take action to control them.
Story by Nana Yaw Osei