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

Is Bigger Better in the Bahamas?
It was suggested, in our last month’s article, that heart disease is one of the five top causes of death in the Bahamas today. Contributing very highly to this alarming statistic is the fact that Bahamians are now very fat, and becoming increasingly larger. It is said that 50% of the population is overweight, and 20% of that number is obese or more than 20% above their ideal body weight. Last year, a survey in the United States declared an obesity epidemic occurring across the United States, and indicated that “only smoking exceeds obesity in its contribution to total mortality rates in the United States. The nation can no longer afford to ignore obesity as a major medical problem”.

This holds true for the Bahamas also. I believe that our figures are very conservative. Take a look for yourself at any public function. Count the folks that seem to be of reasonable size, then count those that are obviously overweight. You will most likely come up with a figure of more that 50%. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight, and it is not necessary to go into the complex scientific explanations of this phenomenon for th e purposes of this article. The bottom line is that if you are obese, you should make every effort to lose weight NOW. If left unchecked, obesity places you at much greater risk for developing a variety of extremely serious, often life threatening conditions like heart disease, cancer, gallbladder disease, osteoarthrits, osteoporosis (weakening of the bones), diabetes, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, hormonal disturbances, depression and so on.

So decide now to TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH! Your body is a temple. Start tomorrow! Psyche yourself up to lose weight, not just to get into that nice dress or suit, but for as long as you live. Lose it and keep it off, and here is how:- Learn what calories are, how many you need per day, and how many are contained in the food and drink that you consume. Get help!!!! From your doctor, a nutritionist or qualified health practitioner. Never engorge youself so that you feel like a ton of bricks before you leave the table. Leave feeling a little hungry.

As far as possible, prepare your meals at home. Avoid fatty fast foods, heavy cook-outs, rich restaurant foods, sweet drinks and excessive alcohol intake. Avoid the fad diets that do not contain well-balanced nutrition. People play on your ignorance, and make off with your money. You should not want to endanger your health in order to lose weight. I have seen some very sick people in my office who were on an all meat diet and other faddish things.

Eat three small, nutritious. meals per day, and drink nothing but water between meals. Skipping meals may also get you into health problems. Get an adequate supply of vitamins.

Regular Physical activity is important. Don’t be lazy. Start with short walks, swimming, cycling etc. Start with light exercise of short duration two to three times a week until you become fitter so that you do not hurt yourself. Consult your doctor before you start. Do this for three to four weeks, then move into more strenuous aerobic activity for half an hour five days a week.. Some forms of aerobic exercise include:-

Brisk walking, Jogging, Bicycling, Swimming, Aerobic Dancing, Racket sports, Rowing,, Roller Skating and using aerobic equipment.

Regular physical activity, in addition to helping control your weight, can reduce your risk of several disease conditions, and improve your overall quality of life. It can help protect you from the following conditions:-

- Heart Disease and Stroke:- It does this by strengthening the heart muscle, lowering the blood pressure, raising the level of good cholesterol, lowering the level of bad cholesterol, improving blood flow, and increasing the heart’s working capability.

- High Blood Pressure
- Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes
- Muscle and Joint Pains
- Osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises promotes bone formation.
- Depression. Physical exercise improves your mood and self esteem.

Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity and Surgical treatment like jaw-wiring, intestinal bypass surgery or liposuction should not be considered without serious consultation with your competent doctor.

During my many years of practice, I have seen tremendous and beneficial changes come to a few patients who have put ideas similar to these to work. Unfortunately, the majority of overweight patients are not sufficiently motivated, and either fail altogther to lose weight, or lose initially and then relapse into their old habits. I love them all. I feel the pain of their failure, and hope that they will continue on the road to good health. It is suggested that a wide range of population groups, including doctors and other healthcare professionals, public health professionals, legislators, the community, work sites and organisations must become involved in working toward a solution to this national epidemic.