5 Health Resolutions You Can Keep This Year by Opeyemi Odunayo

New Year’s resolutions often start staggering by mid-January mainly because they are unachievable. However we need to learn to initially take baby steps when making such resolutions; time is needed to create new habits.

We realize it’s hard to retain the enthusiasm month after month and that’s why we decided to help you pick 5 healthy habits you can actually stick to.

  1. Get more sleep – A good night’s rest is critical for the optimal functioning of the body and mind. Sleep happens in a relaxed environment, create a regular program to enable it. Take a warm shower, lights out, screens off; put your smartphone on silent and if possible in a cupboard. Several health studies indicate that a lack of sleep increases the odds of several ailments including type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety and obesity.
  1. Exercising more – Over the years this has turned out to be one of the easy fails. This is mostly because we start out on aggressive workout programs that change 4 to 5 days of our week. Start out with simple activities like walking more, using the stairs instead of elevators and biking. You could also try out yoga workout; they will help you build confidence even as you graduate into tougher workout sessions.
  1. Reduce Your Calorie consumption – Reducing your daily portions, does translate into reducing calorie intake. It is however much better if you resort to choosing a healthier diet. This means leaving the soft drinks and pizzas for diets that contain nut seeds, whole grains, and fish. Avoid making this reduction drastic, instead do it slowly over a 4 months period to enable your body adapt.
  2. Staying in touch – A recent study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests lacking social bonds can be a health hazard that can be compared to smoking and alcohol abuse. It suggests that people who have strong social ties tend to live longer than those who don’t. This is definitely a good reason to habitually call old friends or family you’ve lost contact with. Buzz them on social media, call them and try to follow up with in-person visits.
  3. Reduce your stress – We need to work to pay the bills, a little pressure now and then won’t kill. Short bouts of stress can give us energy boosts, the problem lies in how frequently we get stressed. Chronic stress increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, insomnia, and depression. Figure out the what, the people or place that might be causing your stress today, then start making out plans to manage such factors.

 

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Social Media And Averting Cancer in Nigeria

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For many Internet users, social media have become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. A large number of online users prefer to get their news and other relevant information through what others, including news agencies post on social media.

As a result, it has become a daily routine for many people, especially parents, to complain about the “fixation” of young people on their smartphones and social media. They feel a surge of anxiety about the dangers social media and technology pose to the future of millennials. I must admit that I used to belong to this school of thought but I have come to accept that social media is part of evolution. Naturally, we abhor any opinion that contradicts status quo – what we are used to. So it is understandable why many think social media is a time bomb.

The most overwhelming thing about social media is its reach. Through social media, the world has become a real global village thereby bringing us closer to the audience we seek. If social media were countries, they would make up 7 out of the 10 largest countries in the world by population. 

In recent times, we have seen social media exert outstanding influence on the real world through various harshtag advocacies, including medical advocacy. Since social media have a huge presence in our lives, it is only right that we apply social media to our health and well being.

Yesterday, I read about the 12-year old Indian boy, Sparsh Shah, who broke the Internet with his own rendition of Eminem cover ‘Not Afraid’. What caught my attention was the song but I was astonished when I watched the video. The boy uses a wheelchair because he suffers from a rare disease of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a disease I had never heard of. With the help of social media, he was able to get his message across; letting the world know about his talent, disease condition and resilience.

The most successful health awareness campaign on social media so far remains the #IceBucketChallenge. This helped raise $115 million for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease – a motor neurone disorder that attacks nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles.

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Social media has also helped in tackling the cancer scourge. In 2014, Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s largest independent cancer research and awareness charity, raised over $13m in six days through Twitter and Facebook from the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaign. They asked women to post selfies without makeup on social media using the hashtag #NoMakeupSelfie. The money generated has since been reinvested into clinical trials and breakthrough discoveries that will eventually lead to novel interventions for patients.

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This got me thinking of ways we can harness social media properly and change the medical landscape in Nigeria. The power of social media to bring patients, clinicians, scientists, advocates, innovators and financiers in the country to the same table is fairly underutilised.

It is speculated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur annually in Nigeria. As a consequence, it is dire that we act fast and nip it at the bud. Using social media, we can create awareness about the disease and also promote researches into cancers affecting Nigerians.

Online surveys on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can go a long way to ascertain public awareness of the risk factors and symptoms of most common cancers in Nigeria. Many Nigerians are averse to paying a visit to hospitals when they notice a symptom; they often wait until their medical conditions deteriorate. This online campaign will help in sensitising people to become aware of the risk factors and symptoms of the disease thereby increasing early detection of the disease. Early detection helps a patient to seek medical treatment early enough to boost chances of survival.

Also, encouraging cancer patients in the country to share their stories and experiences via social media can go a long way to dispel the myth that cancer is a spiritual disease and help others to understand the magnitude of the disease. This can also spur online readers to donate money to fund treatment and research institutes/groups striving to find a cure for different types of cancers, including HIV/AIDS-related cancers.

Listening to patients, who are living with specific cancers speak publicly about their experience via Facebook pages, tweetchats, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and websites, can also be therapeutic for other patients. It creates an avenue for them to come together and form support groups or even charity organisations or companies around cancer.

However, there are risks involved with using social media in rapid spread of information about cancer in the country. There’s an abundance of information on the social media, some of which could be too much for some or inaccurate or misleading. Despite its shortcomings, I sincerely believe that someday social media will lead the change we desperately need in the Nigerian health sector as one of the tools that can help deal with cancer and its impact.

Cancer: Join The Fight

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Yesterday February 4 was World Cancer Day; a day set aside by the United Nations (UN)/World Health Organisation (WHO) every year to raise awareness about cancer and encourage its research, prevention, detection and treatment.

Cancer encompasses a wide range of complex diseases affecting various organs in the body. It is the leading cause of the death worldwide, according to World Health Organization (WHO).

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Despite this ailment being a scourge, its awareness, prevention and treatment is surprisingly still poor in Nigeria. It is really sad the way we take health issues in this country.

During the last general elections, neither All Progessive Congress (APC) nor People’s Democratic Party (PDP) mentioned health in their mainfesto. All focus was on economy, infrastructure and anti-corruption war.

Nigeria economy greatly depends on crude oil production in the oil-rich areas and the price of crude oil in the international market. However, there is still little or no awareness about the possible health hazards like cancer that will develop over time in those areas as a result of the exploration and exploitation of crude oil.

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Cancer is unfortunately ubiquitous; we are all affected by it whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) are present in the air, food and water we are exposed to. Drugs, hormones, viruses, petrochemicals, bacteria, metals, radiation, tobacco, obesity and increased alcohol intake all increase cancer risk.

The U.S. Department of Health Services estimated that about two-third of all cancer cases worldwide is linked to our environment and our life style choices. WHO also estimated that about 100,000 new cancer cases occur in Nigeria annually.

This highlights the dire need for us, as a people, to prepare for the Tsunami that is about to break in cancer by raising awareness and promoting research for prevention and treatment of all cancer types. This will go a long way in reducing cancer incidence and cancer-related deaths in Nigeria.

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Luckily, cancer incidence is still lower in Nigeria than developed nations like the United Kingdom (UK) so there is need to nip it in the bud. James M. Allan, a Professor of Cancer Genetics at Newcastle University, suggested that the difference in life expectancy at birth in both countries may be the reason behind this.

The current life expectancy at birth in Nigeria is 52.62 years whilst life expectancy at birth in the UK is 80.54 years (source: CIA World Fact Book). And the median age of most cancers at diagnosis is often between 60 and 68 years.

The most prevalent cancers in Nigeria are breast, cervical and prostrate cancers. Cancer treatments are expensive but these are curable if detected early. The outlook for patients with these cancers is much better than two to three decades ago, with better cure rates and longer term disease freesurvival.

However, cancer treatment centres are very few in the country. And most of them lack modern equipment for diagnosing and treating the condition. It was reported last year that only two radiotherapy machines are functional in the country.

The Federal Government, in conjunction with the state and local governments, need to float and equip more mobile centres throughout the country to fight this scourge. And also create awareness about the causative factors, preventative measures, likely treatment options and facilities where such treatments are available. I implore them to also make provisions in the annual budget for extensive researches into all cancer types affecting Nigerians.

Cancer is no respecter of age, sex, ethnicity, religion, class, wealth, beauty, talent, intelligence, fame or power. But together we can all do something about cancer. Join the fight against cancer.

Mental Health: A Need For Awareness

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Mental health problems are on meteoric rise across the globe. I read an interesting article which identified mental health disorders as the fifth leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Interestingly, Nigeria, along with China, North Korea and Japan were the four countries mentioned to have low burden of death and disease from mental disorders.

This could be due to the fact that the average Nigerian mind races to madness (psychosis) probably inflicted on a person by haters from his or her village, when mental health is mentioned. Many fail to realise that alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, sleep issues, emotions such as anxiety and depression, levels of stress, self-harming and suicide are all linked to mental health.

As a result, very few Nigerians pay attention to their mental health. Judging with what is happening right now, one can predict that mental health issues of Nigerians, especially the youths will skyrocket in the next five to ten years. And this should be seen as a major public health concern.

Before you start critiquing this; I am yet to research on this so I have no raw data to back my claims hence this is just an opinion, observation or assertion.

Nigerian youths are faced with numerous problems in our country today. From joblessness (unemployment) through relationship/marriage problems to alcohol and drug abuse etc. And these can do serious damage to one’s mental health.

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First, parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to study and become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Many may lack the abilities and capabilities required to reach the educational goals set by the parents and in the end, become stressed, anxious and depressed or may resort to drug abuse/alcoholism to take the pain away.

Then, if one scales through these hurdles and graduates, one enthusiastically applies for numerous jobs as many believe their job defines them and earns them respect. If unsuccessful after a long search, one may lose confidence and self-esteem.

Unemployment can take a huge toll on a fresh graduate’s pysche. The stages of unemployment are initial shock, depression and finally adjustment. Depression may cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Next, the never-ending pressure on a young Nigerian lady, from family and society, to marry and have a family. Although many claim unfazed, being single may increase the risk of developing mental health problems in adulthood.

Nevertheless, ending a relationship/marriage through separation, divorce or death may also cause an increased risk of mental health disorders. Relationships are hard-work and often drains one’s emotional energy. People may be happier whilst married or in relationship but the effects on mental health once separated by death or divorce may be far worse than being single.

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It is never easy when a relationship/marriage ends. The breakup can trigger negative emotions, such as sadness, hate, disappointment and depression, which one may never recover from. The more break-ups one has, the more his/her mental health  progressively deteriorates.

Emergence of social media hasn’t helped either; it has increased comparison, cyber-bullying, restlessness, glamorization of sex, drugs and alcohol use and crowd mentality amongst the youths to appear cool. People put more pressure on themselves when they see achievements of others thereby elevating their stress levels, anxiety and depression. If they feel they are falling behind, they may make matters worse by turning to drugs or alcohol.

Mental health issues can prevent one from living his/her dream, starting a family or becoming useful to his nation. And this should be treated as a serious health scare. Mental health awareness should be made to safeguard emotional wellbeing of Nigerian youths.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Good Health is Underated

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“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind clear and strong” – Budha

As we go through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often lose focus on what’s really important – we tend to forget just how important good health is to leading a successful life.

Health, they say, is real wealth but
not many individuals make out time in their busy schedules and lifestyles to care for themselves. We are so engrossed in our ambitions and aspirations, without realising all these are meaningless in the absence of a healthy lifestyle. However, health is dynamic; our health levels change in tandem with our changing lifestyles.

Good health is a priceless asset to oneself, his family and nation at large – it is a heritage to be passed on due to the importance of heredity in this respect. Consequently, it is a burden not just to oneself but to one’s family and one’s nation to maintain good health.

I found it alarmingly disturbing that something as important as health of the citizenry was played down by erstwhile President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his successor, Muhummadu Buhari during the Presidential elections campaign. Whilst focusing mainly on infrastructure, economy and anti-corruption; both paid no heed to the words of
Will Durant, who said “The health of nations is more important than the wealth of nations.”

A decline in health levels of the citizenry will affect almost everything – including economic growth/development via total factor productivity. An ailing citizenry lack zest for daily pursuits hence retarding the pace of functional activity and economic development. This provides an insight why  underdevelopment persists in our country despite the massive turnover of Nigerian graduates year in, year out.

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Health is central to one’s whole personality and optimal state of well being. When discussed, people have varying definitions of health but most focus on the conditions of their bodies – physical aspect of health. Although physical health is important to overall health, our social, emotional/mental and spiritual health are just as important as physical health. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Health refers to a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Good health is pivot to human happiness – a state of the mind – through well-functioning mind and emotions. Everybody lusts after happiness and desperately relishes the pursuit of this holy grail.

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Attaining/maintaining good health is not a single-action but continuous process. People practise good health in diverse ways ranging from food, exercise, rest, cleanliness to social interactions. I am not a dietician so I can’t offer you expert advice on what to eat to maintain good health but I do know this..exercise and sleep really help.

Adequate sleep and exercise are extremely important to staying healthy both in body and mind. Arianna Huntington, the owner of Huntington Post, described sleep, in her book Thrive, as “the most underrated health habit”. Sleep can stimulate imagination/innovation, enhance one’s memory and attention, ease stress and depression, and boost one’s performance/grades but lack of sleep has a huge effect on mental health, hormonal imbalance and susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes.

Furthermore, exercise, for the body and mind, is highly recommeneded to be done as often as possible. Whilst the recommendation of physical exercise is common with various workout manuals and videos out there, mental exercise is often neglected but is vital as well. One can also exercise his/her mind by learning new things everyday, reading a book, doing cross word puzzles/scrabble/sudoku, calculating sums in your head etc.

The importance of practising good health is evident in every aspect of one’s life, including your relationships. Without good health, we fall short of the joys and pleasures of life – our aspirations and ambitions. Always remember: everybody dies but not everyone lives. Start living today.

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