Take Charge of Your Health
An article by Dr. Kirtland Culmer

Better Health, Longer Life, the Choice Is Yours
Man is unique among the animals because of his superior intelligence…man rides the horse, not vice versa. Yet in so many instances, this intelligence misses the simple answers to vitally important questions because of the many pleasurable, but destructive distractions that go on around us. For instance, we seem to need the screaming headlines of death and carnage to remind us that life is a brittle, insecure, but precious gift. It is not just the criminal or the careless that pose a threat to us , but we, in our own subtle way ignore our health, and chip away at this thing called life, until death do us early part.

In order to understand how better to live, it is important to appreciate why we die. The medical scientists and record keepers tell us that the leading causes of death in the Bahamas in males and females of all ages are:- (1) diseases of the heart, (2) AIDS, (3) cancer, (4) ACCIDENTS,VIOLENCE AND POISONINGS, (5) cerebrovascular diseases, and (6) diabetes mellitus.

Our forefathers and mothers walked and rode their bicycles everywhere. They worked manually in the fields, the boats and at home. Red meat and dairy products were available only on very special occasions. They grew and ate their own fresh vegetables and fruits. Diseases of the heart in Bahamians were almost unheard of until the early 1970’s. Here then is the good news. If we eat a judicious, low fat, low calorie diet and have a consistent aerobic exercise program, we run a very low risk of being obese, having clogged arteries, and experiencing a sudden heart attack or early death.

If this was a totally moralistic society, all the suffering and death resulting from the terrible disease called AIDS would be eliminated. So much pain is inflicted on innocent partners when husbands, wives and sweethearts decide to play around ignoring the lessons of morality and safe sex, and when the disease is transmitted from mothers to innocent babies. Screening needs to be done in high-risk individuals and pregnant mothers so that those who are infected may be identified, and measures effected to prevent the spread to others.

Cancer is the most dreaded of all the diseases because there is so much more needed to be known about it. However, it is well known that there are some things that we can do to reduce the threat of cancer. If we eat healthy, well-balanced meals, some of the risk is reduced. Some vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower etc. have ingredients in them that seem to fight against cancer. Smoking can cause cancer in many areas of the body, and can also cause damage to blood vessels. Lives can be saved if patients cooperate with their doctors to obtain screening tests, which may detect cancer early. Screening can be done for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, cancer of the cervix, endometrium, skin, ovaries and prostate.

Headlines in the news media declaring the large number of senseless deaths due to accidents, criminal violence and poisonings emphasize the need for drastic lifestyle changes in order to curb these rising menaces. These are also related to drug and alcohol abuse which in their own right are dealing crippling blows to our society. Families, religious organisations, educators, psychologists, social workers, physicians, civic organisations and law enforcement agencies need to make a concerted effort to combat these destructive elements.

Deaths and crippling disease from strokes are another great cause for concern. Since most of the problems stem from complications of high blood pressure, it is most important that this “silent killer” is recognised and controlled. Regular visits to the doctor, strict discipline in taking medication and adopting an appropriate lifestyle can make a significant difference, and allow patients to live a healthy life span.

The problems associated with diabetes mellitus are mainly due to complications which result from patients not adhering to guidelines set to help them maintain an acceptable blood sugar level. Regular visits and cooperation with their doctor or clinic go a long way in preventing complications. The Bahamas Diabetic Association is a very helpful organisation which provides patients with comradie,and counselling, and helps them also with the guidelines to proper maintenance.

It is obvious that an individual’s lifestyle is the major modifiable determinant of health. A proper diet, stress reduction and exercise, and avoidance of toxins such as alcohol, nicotine and drugs can drastically improve the health of this nation, and reduce sickness and death. Make regular visits to your doctor, plan your program, and this choice will work for you, if it is not just a flash in the dark,, but a lifelong commitment.