Lifestyle & bad eating habits

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony recently called out Guyanese on our bad eating habits.
To quote the Minister: “There are a number of bad habits that we have. They include consumption of alcohol and smoking cigarettes. We eat the wrong food and move away from fresh, healthy foods. We eat a lot of fast foods and drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages. These contribute to diabetes and we have to change them. In addition, a lot of our population has moved to an inactive way of living.”
Every year, Guyana joins with regional countries as part of a unified response to promote health, and prevent and control the epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases or NCDs.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts on individuals and communities as a whole are yet another stark reminder that both the health authorities and citizens must continue to take the issue of NCDs very seriously.
Based on what the medical professionals have found so far, most of the persons who died as a result of contracting COVID-19 had some kind of underlying health complication, many of which are related to NCDs.
According to PAHO/WHO, people with underlying health conditions such as NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer, have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, and are more likely to die from COVID-19. Risk factors for NCDs can make people more vulnerable to becoming severely ill. For example, smokers may have reduced lung capacity, which would greatly increase risk of serious illness.
Even before the pandemic, poor lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity had resulted in large numbers of people falling sick and dying.
It is also believed that around 40 per cent of Guyanese are either overweight or obese, and of that number, the majority are women.
Health experts say that chronic diseases result largely from bad food choices and low levels of physical activity. Reducing the risk of developing chronic illnesses, including Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and various cancers, is associated with living a healthy lifestyle, which includes such factors as non-smoking, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol intake, and a sense of mental well-being.
For example, evidence suggests that half of all cancers could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.
Further, NCDs come at a high cost to individuals and nation states in terms of human suffering, expensive treatment, and loss of production. It is estimated that the direct and indirect costs of treating NCDs in Guyana is over 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
What is noteworthy is the realisation that most cases of chronic NCDs are avoidable, and it is within our individual power to prevent these diseases from affecting our lives.
So, how do we make the breakthrough when it comes to getting our citizens to adopt healthy lifestyles, considering the fact that some persons still operate with a high degree of ignorance?
To begin with, we believe that there is need for greater awareness and knowledge in the society about the dangers of chronic illnesses. On this basis, we urge that there be continuous public education and awareness campaigns across the country, to address various health issues.
Research has shown that the numerous media campaigns on HIV/AIDS prevention and care, stigma and discrimination have impacted positively on attitudes and lifestyle changes; and messages in a similar fashion should be created towards addressing NCDs such as hypertension and diabetes, or dealing with overweightness and obesity.
The Government, even though it must take the lead as it relates to policy drafting and implementation etc, cannot do it alone. The entire society must be actively involved.
It is well accepted that better health is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more. Everyone should, therefore, aim to live a healthy and full life, and to avoid becoming trapped by NCDs.
We agree with the Health Minister when he said, “the earlier they (children) learn healthy behaviours, then they would have lifelong benefits from this type of behaviour. If we teach children the right thing, more than likely they would go through life using these techniques”.

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