Health Tips For The New Year

Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

Many people will agree that 2014 was a memorable year in the health of our country. It was the year of the Ebola virus and one in which repeated strikes across the health sector promised to undo what little achievements had been recorded over many years. Although it seems that despite all efforts made by everyone, the country remains firmly in the backwater of the medical universe. It is not for the lack of trying; it is just that we may have not have tried hard enough yet.

What should the people do to improve their health status? In a country where everyone runs a mini-government in order to survive, it is not out of place to run ones little health ministry. We produce our own power individually; send our kids to private schools, clean our streets and neighbourhoods, drill our own bore-holes to get potable water and when we can afford it, live in gated neighbourhoods to provide our own security. When we cant afford to live in such estates, we team up to pay a citizens militia to keep our neighbourhood safe. Why not provide for our health as well?

To a large extent, the major issue we must keep in mind is prevention. Many illnesses can be prevented by some very simple things we can do on our own within the home. Washing of the hands, for example, is one such thing. The art of washing the hands frequently is an issue we have previously examined on this page. Regular washing of the hands with soap and water is guaranteed to help you prevent more than two-thirds of all common infections. If you have shaken hands with people, used the toilet or bathroom, you must wash your hands when you are done. If you have just eaten, please wash your hands and also remember to do so even before you eat. If you touch your nose or rub your eyes, wash your hands afterwards and many simple infections will thereby be prevented.

Make an effort to wash your cooking utensils before and after use. Pots, plates and cutlery must not be left overnight with food particles on them so as not to encourage rats, cockroaches and ants from invading your domain with the potential for causing diseases. It is so much easier to wash these things when they have recently been used than when the food has dried up in them thus requiring larger amounts of water for their soaking and softening. Soap and water are indispensable for ensuring this level of cleanliness. Water alone cannot do the job. Practice makes perfect just as a stitch in time saves nine. Soon, all of this will become a part of you. You wont even think of it because it will be second nature. That is also because cleanliness is next to Godliness.

It is a good habit to be clean outwardly. Wash your clothes regularly. Ideally, do so after use on a daily basis. If water is a challenge where you live, you can do with a good dose of sunshine for such clothes. The sun is one resource that we have in abundance. That is a practice villagers know a lot about. Also, men should keep a reasonable length of hair and comb it as often as possible. The women should keep their hair tidy. Ensure you make your hair something like twice a month, or once every three weeks at the most, rather than keep an attachment for three months and irritate everyone around you with a smell they can barely cope with. Also, it is a good thing to have a bath at least twice a day. Do this with soap and water. Use powder between the thighs and in the arm-pits to keep it dry and comfortable all day or all night long. The use of deodorants and perfumes is also encouraged as these improve your appreciation in the eyes of people around you.

Wash your underwear after using it once. This means that your underwear should be used for no more than one day at a time. Wash and dry them in the sun as appropriate and wear them only when they are completely dry. Over the years, I have known some persons who would even iron their pants, which you may consider extreme, but it is not wrong if you have the time and the resources to do so. Trim the pubic hair and the hair in the armpit as well. Women can, in fact, remove the hair completely, especially during their monthly periods to make it easier to keep clean and comfortable.

Lastly, brush the mouth twice a day using a soft toothbrush or a medium strength one. Hard brushes tend to wear out your teeth rather quickly. Besides, trim your finger-nails. Do not keep the kind of nails that make you resemble a hawk or an eagle. My boss calls those kinds of nails talons, because they make you resemble a wild bird rather than a decent woman of class. Also, remember that when the nails are inordinately long, they tend to harbour bacteria and cause infections.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, they say. That is true always. Work hard to provide for your financial wellbeing, but also find the time to exercise regularly. A 30-minute exercise conducted three times a week is good for your heart and the muscles of your limbs. It stimulates the blood flow around your body and improves your physical fitness. Besides, it builds up your stock of high density lipoproteins, the so called good cholesterol that protects your heart from sudden failure.

Alternatively, ensure that you engage in an exercise regimen that will make you take some 8,000 steps a day on the average. One of Americas five-star generals, General Douglas MacArthur, was 61 years old when the Second World War began in Asia with the Japanese attacks on the Philippines. He maintained a lean frame throughout his career partly because he was always striding back and forth in his office. During meetings, when alone and thinking, when reviewing strategy with his general staff and even during interviews, he could barely sit still. He was estimated to walk between eight and 10 kilometres a day by so doing within the confines of his office. Walking is good exercise. Swimming and riding are equally complete sports.

The next important thing we need to engage in is an effort to control what we eat and when we eat such food. Do not eat late at night as a rule. Sadly, many people in megacities such as Lagos cannot always avoid this, yours truly included, but do not make it a habit. Also, do not miss your breakfast. It is perhaps the most important meal of the day. It is known that those who eat breakfast tend to eat less food at lunch and dinner. Missing breakfast is not good news for you if you wish to lose weight or maintain your weight. Eat a balanced diet at all times and avoid junk food. Many fast foods are rich in salt, sugar, preservatives and fat. Over time, these substances become toxic metabolites in our body that may push you into obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Ask the doctor

Dear doctor, keep up the good work. I am a mother of six wonderful children. The birth of my last child was very traumatic and I went through a lot. Since then, my body has not been the same. Recently, at about 5am in the morning, I had sex with my husband and I was on top of him and I felt some pain within my vagina but I didnt pay any attention to it because it has been up to three months since we had sex. The following morning, the same thing happened even though he was on top. The pain was twice as severe and I had to push him away from me. I was in so much pain that I cried. Up till now, I am still in pain. Please, whats the cause of the pain? 080778xxxxx

You could have a pelvic infection or perhaps, the penetration on both occasions was deeper than usual. However, I suspect you may be harbouring an infection because the pain has lingered even after the act of sexual intercourse. Accordingly, you ought to see the doctors who took your delivery for a useful insight into what could be wrong. I expect you would be given a full examination in order to determine the cause of this pain.

Dear doctor, please I would like to know where I can legally donate blood and how often. I am 41, female and mother of three. Secondly, what is prolapse in women? 080532xxxxx

Blood donation services are available in all the large government hospitals around the country. You can actually walk into any of these hospitals, ask for the blood bank and let them know that you want to donate blood. You will be examined and your blood tested. If you have not had a delivery in the previous six months or are not currently pregnant, you will almost certainly be enrolled. You can safely donate blood twice a year. In addition, if you live in Lagos, you may wish to visit the Berachah Foundation office at the General Hospital, Marina, for a comprehensive talk on what you need to do in this regard and how to go about it. Prolapse in women refers to the protrusion of the womb into the vagina. There are different stages of this problem, but the major cause is because the muscles of the floor of the pelvis become weak as a result of frequent pregnancies or a poorly supervised delivery. The womb may thus sink into the roof of the vagina, or sink further in the vagina so that you can readily feel it with your fingers. It could also sink so low that if you stoop or lie down, the neck of the womb can actually be seen. Worse still, the entire womb can come out through the vagina. The treatment for these various stages is different and a gynaecologist will be able to educate you about that.

Dear doctor, can a woman who experiences irregular menstruation get pregnant? 081373xxxxx

Pregnancy can sometimes be achieved, especially when you are less than 28 years of age. Usually though, something is wrong that causes the periods to be irregular and often, the cause must be found so that the proper treatment can be given.

Dear doctor, I was told I have a raised blood pressure six weeks after my delivery when I went for my post natal clinic. It was attributed to the stress of taking care of the baby alone. I did some laboratory tests that confirmed I am okay. I am on Aldomet tablets and was told that I will have to take it for life. Is this true? After taking the drug, I feel weak and unable to do anything. My baby is three-months old now and I am 37 years old. I have been doing exercises and eating lots of cucumber. Please whats your advice on this? 080233xxxxx

I sympathise with you but it is not likely that the stress of taking care of your baby alone, as you put it, is responsible for your hypertension. Some women develop hypertension during pregnancy. Others do so shortly before delivery, while others do so after delivery. The treatment depends therefore on when it is discovered and at some point, you become well enough to do without medications. It is not accurate to say that you will have to take one particular drug for life because even if the illness persists, there will come a time when Aldomet will become ineffective and will have to be replaced by something else. Laboratory tests will reveal nothing in all likelihood unless certain complications have set in.

Dear doctor, I am 22 years old. I came across your column in SUNDAY PUNCH recently and I really need your help. I had a yeast infection sometime last month. I used a drug and it stopped. Recently, I noticed that I urinate frequently and I see a few ants on the toilet seat sometimes. Please help me. 070128xxxxx

You cannot be certain that what you had in the first place was a yeast infection. You may have been lucky to have used a drug that cleared that infection then. However, this new twist seems to be a fresh problem and you will have to see your doctor for the required blood tests and vaginal swabs as well as urine tests to determine where the problem lies. It is important to make sure that you have not developed diabetes and also that if you have it, to have proper treatment. Untreated diabetes can make you prone to certain genital infections.

Dear doctor, my sister has fibroids. What drugs can she use? 070113xxxxx

Frankly, I am not aware of any drug used for the treatment of fibroids. You will have to take her to see a gynaecologist for a proper assessment and to determine if her fibroids require treatment or should be left alone.

Dear doctor, my period is always too much. Please, help me. 081839xxxxx

It is a bit difficult to determine what you really mean by saying your period is too much. Do you have a flow for too many days? Or do you have a flow for the normal duration, but heavily? Or is it both? Depending on what the answer is, there will be an important cause. You will need to see your doctor for a physical examination and an ultrasound sound as the absolute minimum. Other tests may be recommended depending on what he finds.

Dear doctor, thank you for the good work. I work with an oil company and my wife is a stockbroker. We have three children. However, they dont seem to be growing as I would like. We have no problems with funds and we give them the best food available. Yet the eldest who is now 13 years old looks like a seven or eight-year-old. This bothers me a lot. What could the problem possibly be? 080344xxxxx

Issues of growth in children are complex. It is not enough to give them the best food which you have not defined really. Is it the best in terms of having the right proportion of carbohydrates, fat and protein with the important minerals, or is it the best in terms of the quantity you provide for them? The former is better than the latter. Also, dont lose sight of the role of the genes in all of this. How tall or big are you or is your wife? Even if you have an ample frame, are your siblings similarly blessed? Japan is one of the wealthiest countries of the world but the average Japanese is a relatively smallish person and they consequently have small children who do not weigh as much as an American or European baby at birth.

Dear doctor, sometime ago, you wrote an article about cancer in children. I didnt believe what you were saying or that it was a serious issue. Some eight months ago, my 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer which we were told is called Wilms tumour. She had the recommended operation but still died before completing chemotherapy. My family has been devastated by this. Please, inform parents all over the country that it is real. 080892xxxxx

Im so sorry about your loss. Wilms tumour is the one childhood cancer that usually responds well to treatment. However, there are other factors that make cancers behave differently in certain people. Sometimes, some people are simply resistant to certain types of these diseases because of the way their genes are structured or because of the character of the tumour or even because of their age.

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