By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Oct. 15, 2021)
“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food.” — Herodotus
Some of us are far too busy to find time to care for ourselves. We make all kinds of excuses: work schedule, children, a demanding spouse or lover, commitment to our church or community.
If you fit into this too busy group, especially if you are a professional or successful business executive, you may accumulate lots of cash and other assets. If you are not careful or begin to take stock of your life and health, by the time you get past 50 years, you could consider yourself lucky if you have not started to make regular visits to the doctor, thus giving away much of what you were busily acquiring.
The coronavirus pandemic has placed enormous pressure on societies and their populations. For the last 19 months, we have been forced to act and do things differently. Social activities have ground to a halt. Human beings, who are social by nature, have faced lockdowns or curtailment of their right to congregate and socialise. We can no longer greet and hug our friends and associates as we were accustomed.
As a consequence, too many of us now go from work to home. We sit before the television and “pig out”. Some proudly rub their protruding stomachs and celebrate their “Covid pounds”. A recent study revealed that for every pound you gain beyond your recommended weight, you lose an estimated five days off your life. Added to this reality are the difficulties faced by persons with excessive weight: the strain on joints, especially their hips, knees and ankles. With increased weight, our organs, particularly the heart and lungs, are forced to work overtime to perform their vital functions.
The tech revolution has created unforeseen problems for all of us, but our children and young adults are worse affected. They no longer go to the parks or beaches to meet and greet friends, play and work their muscles. They no longer share a meal with the family as they are often locked away in their rooms glued to their devices.
Their bodies and minds suffer from stunted growth. Increasingly, our youngsters suffer from depression, attention deficit disorders and childhood obesity and diabetes. The coronavirus epidemic has compounded the problem for our future leaders as they are robbed of in-class interaction with friends, teaching and learning experiences. Combined, these things we took for granted before COVID-19 rob our young people, create a learning deficit and an educational divide that will not easily or quickly be closed.
There is an additional fallout from the coronavirus epidemic. We speak to the emerging mental dislocation and destabilisation of citizens. Increasingly, there are reports of physical and psychological abuse among adults and lovers, and sexual abuse of children.
Society is in a mess, and we have a lot of cleaning to do. These problems will demand a lot of resources. Unfortunately, SVG lacks capacity. We are short of trained expertise and or the resources to acquire them. Many of our institutions, including the all-important hospitals and mental health centre, are embarrassingly understaffed and under-equipped to deal with the problems confronting us.
These mountains of problems bring us back to the vital need for preventative medicine. Generally, we overeat the wrong foods and consume far too much alcohol. The poorer sections of our society have the added problem of not having the financial wherewithal to buy nutritious food. They depend on a belly full. Oily, salty, sugary and cheap carbs are their staple.
Forty years ago, it was a rarity to see an obese child or young adult. Today most of our adult population is overweight and or obese. We no longer go hungry, but we are starving, lacking in good nutrition — our joints creek under the burden of excessive weight.
Diabetes and hypertension have become silent killers. It is now unusual to meet an adult who is not taking medication to fight these health problems. Citizens are losing body parts to diabetes at an alarming rate. The Caribbean is said to have one of the highest amputation rates in the world. We have had no wars or major social upheavals, yet we are losing organs and limbs at alarming rates. The COVID-19 epidemic has claimed the lives of 38 Vincentians, not so much because they are unvaccinated. They lost their lives to the disease because they are primarily advanced in age or suffer underlying conditions.
The good news is that many of these health problems can be controlled or even cured. We simply have to take stock of our lives. Too many of us are on a “see-food” diet. We have an uncontrollable urge to eat or drink. It is amazing to see a woman sit and drink five malts or a man consume eight or more alcoholic drinks in a few hours. Most of us refuse to exercise.
Many of our people don’t have a clue as to what constitute healthy practices. They need lifestyle changes. The three major killers are dehydration (insufficient water), poor nutrition and stress. We drink malts and alcohol but not water. We consume an overabundance of unhealthy foods and drinks, thus causing excessive amounts of strain on the body.
And there are the stresses of life. If we learn to control these three killers, we will witness a radical reversal of some of our ailments. We will also add a renewed vitality to life that has been absent since many of us were young adults.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].