In these trying times of daily rise in the number of covid-19 cases, everyone is at a risk of contracting the dreaded disease. Thankfully, so far, some infected persons have recovered and kudos to the front liners in the health and security services who are working assiduously to treat, assist infected persons recover and make the lockdown enforcement possible.
As we struggle to win this battle, it is worthy of note that, although the factors that increase one’s susceptibility to infection by these pathogens are numerous, having an already existing health condition, may make the individual more prone to the disease. This means that those with underlying diseases are at higher risk of being infected with the disease, as compared to those who do not have any.
Unfortunately, in Ghana, many people are battling with non-communicable diseases like hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others. Already, epidemiological records [eM1] and various health reports reveal that most patients infected with the virus, who are critically ill are people who had existing health problems prior to the outbreak, whiles those who are effectively coping and recovering quickly, are those with no underlying conditions. Taking into consideration the fact that many in Ghana are already living with non-communicable diseases, we should be concerned.
Non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes and cancers normally develop over long periods of time and are largely associated with long periods of inactivity, smoking, alcohol abuse, stress and unhealthy diet. They are mostly incurable, and they are a source of high physical, psychological and economic burden as one would have to depend on medications for life in order to manage them effectively. More worthy of note is the fact that, their causes and existence tend to weaken the immune system and puts the individual in an almost impossible position to fight serious infections like the deadly COVID-19. As a result, the patient may be at risk of being overwhelmed and this may inevitably lead to untimely death.
At the moment, over 2million people all over the world have already been infected and over 140,000 deaths [KHK2] [eM3] have occurred. However, although infected, many fail to show signs and symptoms of this disease and worse of all, unknown to these asymptomatic individuals, they continue to act as infective hosts. This situation should put us on our toes to improve safety measures, especially those living with chronic diseases.
While paying strict attention to the already existing preventive measures of COVID-19 like handwashing, social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and the like as well as having to deal with excess media information, make sure not to forget that you were managing an already existing condition before the arrival of the pandemic. The following recommendations may serve as complementary measures to you or your relative who lives with any existing health conditions:
- Improve your exercise routines. Engage in exercises you can cope with at regular rates as advised by your physician.
- Manage your stress effectively: stress management is known to improve your general wellbeing, including your immune system. Identify your stressors and try as much as possible to manage them to the best of your abilities. Try new hobbies and relaxation techniques and ensure adequate rest and sleep.
- Follow strict medical advice: Each medical condition has its own management protocols. Ensure you follow strictly what your physician recommends in order to prevent exacerbation of your existing condition. Use this time to learn more about your condition, better than before.
- Follow your medication regime and report unusual adverse or unfavorable results to your physician for professional intervention.
- Do not postpone your follow-up visit to the health facility especially when your condition needs urgent intervention.
- Make use of professional home-care services; do not hesitate to patronize the services of home medical care as it is one of the most convenient care opportunities you can get in these difficult times.
- Manage your diet well. Avoid unhealthy eating habits.
- Avoid unhealthy lifestyle like alcohol abuse and smoking. They worsen your condition and lower your immunity
- Engage your family in healthy activities and conversations to help boost your mood and keep you healthy and active.
All these activities serve as universal precautionary and treatment measures necessary for any chronic ailment. As much as possible, try to adhere to them together with the recommendations of your physician. Let us help keep COVID-19 away, stay safe!!!
Eric Blewusi is a Registered Nurse/Public Health Practitioner in Ghana.