This festive season is here again and it’s a moment of merrymaking, sharing of gifts and family reunions. However, over the years, the Ministry of Health has observed with concern that in the course of these activities, there is neglect of basic health practices which eventually cause harm to us.
This message is therefore to alert you on the dangers that you may not have noticed, and also provide you with information on healthy living to consider as part of your New Year resolutions.
These healthy practices are:
1. Avoid intake of unhealthy or junk food
2. Avoid intake of alcohol
3. Avoid smoking
4. Exercise regularly
Hippocrates the father of medicine rightly put it: “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.”
From the 2014 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), both men and women are getting obese, but more women are getting obese than men. Also, urban women are more likely to be overweight and obese than their rural counterparts. These days there are a lot of obese children in our schools, especially in the urban centres. From these trends, the future looks bleak when it comes to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)such as hypertension, diabetes and cancers. A major cause of these diseases can be traced to unhealthy eating.
We therefore advise that during this festive season, you should feed your family and friends with more traditional diets and not junk foods. Our local foods are heathier compared to the junk foods, which are full of refined sugars, salt and trans-fatty acids, which can lead to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).
We also recommend that you should eat more fruits and vegetables than the fizzy and soft drinks.
In summary, you should eat less and eat right to prevent diseases during this Christmas!
Avoid consumption of alcohol
The consumption of alcohol causes many problems ranging from serious health effects on the individual, the family, community and society at large. The effects are even worse in the unborn child, children and adolescents. These effects include mental diseases, liver problems, heart diseases and diabetes.
Alcohol consumption is associated with most of our traditional and social functions, which are largely dominated and undertaken by men thus putting them at a higher risk of developing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This is supplemented by the use of alcohol as an appetizer by most men, particularly in the rural settings.
In addition, marketing strategies advocating the “medicinal” and sexual enhancement properties of alcohol contribute significantly to the increasing rates of alcohol use amongst the sexes particularly in men, thereby increasing their risk for developing certain types of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Be wise! Alcohol is not an aphrodisiac, and it can lead to improper sexual behavior.
Don’t drink and drive. Save your life, that of your family, and your neighbour’s. Avoid the use of alcohol during this Christmas. Alcohol can kill!
Smoking of tobacco is now more common among the youth in and out of school. Smoking is the highest risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, all forms of cancers, and it contributes to the severity of pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
The smoking of Indian hemp and shisha are also on the increase, especially also among the youth. In 2014 alone, 1,944 people died from tobacco-related diseases in Ghana.
Smoking is a deadly habit to adopt. There is no single health benefit that can be derived from smoking. We know that smoking is an acquired behaviour and all diseases and deaths caused by smoking are preventable.
My message to you this Christmas is that, “Don’t die from smoking tobacco, shisha, or wee.” Stop smoking during this Christmas.
Stay away from people who smoke. Individuals who are exposed to second-hand smoking can also get the diseases that affect the people who smoke.
All institutions should also take the necessary steps to designate their no smoking areas with “NO SMOKING” signs during the holidays and after.
The Ministry of Health has alcohol and smoking cessation centres that can help people to stop smoking or drinking. Take a step and contact the Mental Health Authority for any assistance.
During this Christmas, we should find some time to exercise regularly. The day you stop exercising that is the very day you start dying. Exercise is medicine to the soul and body.
Research by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has shown that at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week or 10,000 steps per day will reduce your risk of dying from heart diseases, developing diabetes, developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and obesity, and also make you live longer and healthier.
On this Christmas, have time to exercise with your family and friends. Make arrangements for jogging, hiking, swimming, and dancing dates. Physical activity is a healthy habit to adopt.
Drug use and abuse
Drugs are there to help human beings when we are sick. However, we don’t get the full benefit of drugs when we abuse them. For instance, the use of antibiotics without prescriptions is beginning to have negative effect on our resistance to such medicines.
The Ministry of Health recommends that no antibiotic should be bought without prescription. Pain killers too should not be used indiscriminately. Perhaps for short periods and when the condition persist report to the hospital. Note that the early treatment of diseases is best for you. During this Christmas, find time to visit the hospital to screen for various ailments, especially checking your blood pressure and blood sugar level so that you can receive treatment when need be.
Women above the age of eighteen should do breast and cervical checks and men above the age of forty-five should also check their prostate. By this way, you can receive the necessary treatment. Always note that prevention is better than cure.
Whiles talking about drug abuse, I would like to state that the Ministry of Health has noted with concern that once again the youth are also abusing certain drugs such as Tramadol for its intoxicating effect. They also use wee toffees and biscuits for same effect. I would like to point out that these are harmful, addictive and can lead to death. We will, therefore, like to encourage everyone especially the youth to stay away from these practices. We need you alive this Christmas.
We know that HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country is about 1.6 percent. Despite all the education going on, the prevalence rate has the potential to increase due to certain practices. Some research by the Ministry has shown that there is an increasing unprotected sex between older men and young women, among gays and lesbians. We want to bring to the attention of such groups that the risk factor in getting AIDS is real. And we will like to continue to promote the concept of ABC (A meaning that you should continue abstaining from sex until you are married, B being faithful to your partner, and C means the continuous use of condom if you can’t abstain and be faithful). Ghana needs you alive. Avoid AIDS.
Handwashing and cleaning of environment
The Ministry of Health would like to continue talking about the need to prevent diseases always. We know that prevention is always better than cure. A lot of the diseases that affect us on a daily basis can be prevented through handwashing. Indeed, about 95 percent of diseases that are passed on from one person to other can be prevented through regular handwashing.
The handwashing message this Christmas is that always wash your hands with soap under running water before you touch any food and after visiting the toilet. Continuously clean your environment to prevent germs and other infections.
Make healthy resolutions during this season to save your life. Educate people on the harmful effects of poor living—including poor diet, physical inactivity and lack of rest. Also, stop smoking and stop taking alcohol.
Pay serious attention to the harmful effects of these on the human body and mind, society and the country as a whole. Share the message to save the lives of others.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.