As February ends, it is important to remember it is World’s Cancer month. We will be sharing ways of preventing different forms of cancer. As it is also the month of love, our focus will be on self-love, practicing healthy self-love contributes to leading a healthy life. A healthy life is a wealthy life.
The incidence of cancer in Nigeria is on the increase. Along with other non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. These conditions are now playing a leading role in death and disability, as well as significant depletion of funds of people in the prime of their lives.
Unfortunately, for many of these cancer diagnoses, survival in our part of the world is less than 50% at one year from the diagnosis. For this reason, cancer is considered a public health crisis, and education is an important way to combat them.
There are simple lifestyle changes we can adopt to prevent or identify cancers early, which will improve the chances of survival. Other things we can do would involve early detection through screening or even immunizations such as HPV immunization to prevent cervical cancer.
We will discuss specific lifestyle changes to adopt which will improve the outcomes of several cancers and other non-communicable diseases.
Stop Smoking tobacco:
Smoking is a leading cause of death and quality of life. People who smoke are likely to die about ten years earlier than non-smokers are. Smoking literally can affect you from head to toes. Long time smokers are more likely to develop and die from lung and colorectal cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, larynx (the voice box), the pharynx (throat), oesophagus, kidney, cervix, liver, bladder, pancreas and stomach.
Smoking tobacco also causes chronic obstructive airways disease- COPD- which manifests as chronic bronchitis (excess inflammation causing a lot of mucus), emphysema (the breakdown of the walls of the small sacs of the airway) and initially might only show up as a chronic cough (smoker’s cough). Smoking causes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (which causes the proverbial “heart attack” by blocking the blood of blood vessels leading to the heart) and causes peripheral arterial disease from the buildup of plaque. People with peripheral arterial disease have an increased risk of sores.
Women who smoke are more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and have a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy, preterm delivery, low birth weight, miscarriage and stillbirths. Men who smoke are more likely to have erectile dysfunction and abnormalities in sperm leading to reduced fertility and risk of birth defects. Smoking also affects oral (mouth) health and causes gum disease and early tooth loss.
Quitting smoking improves health and increases life expectancy; the effects are almost immediately apparent, and many of the effects of smoking on heart, lung and blood vessel health are reversible over a few years. Quitting lowers the risk of developing the various cancers mentioned above as well as heart, blood vessel and lung disease.
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2. Embark on a healthy diet and adopt healthy eating patterns:
Eating healthy implies eating the right foods at the right time of day.
Especially with the shift in work to the new normal, more people are in sedentary jobs than before. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes as well as several cancers including breast and colorectal cancer.
To prevent or manage obesity, we advise consuming fewer calories and making every calorie count. Balance caloric intake with output- see exercise below) Depending on the individual, different approaches are required. Important things to consider include eating more green vegetables, fruits and whole grain. The vitamin K in green leafy vegetables reduces cognitive decline. Foods to avoid include processed meats and foods, red meat, and sugary drinks including “soft”- (carbonated) drinks and processed juices. Some people promote intermittent fasting, in its easiest form. An 8-hour feeding window is chosen and adhered to every day. One rule of thumb is to eat a food of every colour of the rainbow each day or at least each week. Combined with cardio and aerobic exercise such as lifting weights (see below), these habits make for a healthier you.
Alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of cancers including mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast. For most of these, the risk of developing cancer is related to the amount consumed. However, for breast cancer, the risk appears to be present no matter how little alcohol consumption is. Thus for women with a risk of breast cancer, avoiding alcohol is a good way to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
3. Get regular screening and adopt an annual health visit: sign up with a primary healthcare provider
Getting into the habit of having regular health checks is beneficial for several reasons. It ensures you can keep a good health record, and that you have a place to call with urgent questions concerning specific healthcare needs.
Importantly also, establishing this relationship ensures you get regular screenings for conditions that are silent killers including diabetes, hypertension and many cancers. Screening is important because it allows for early detection and increases the chances of discovering early. In the case of cancer, helps identifies it while cancer is small and has not spread. This increases the chance of survival with treatment. Cancers that can be screened include
Cancer of the cervix in women,
Testicular cancer in men,
Breast cancer – which can occur in both sexes,
Colorectal cancer-, which is common in men but can occur in both sexes,
Prostate cancer, which is the cancer of the prostate gland,
For children immunization visits and regular health, checks are important. Follow the links-www.ingresshealthpartners.com to visit our website and make an appointment.
4. Get adequate sleep
Prioritizing sleep is an important part of self-love and care. Adults should aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, preferably in one night. Getting enough sleep also supports fat loss and muscle gain. The better the quality of one’s sleep, the less the daytime sleepiness. Individual sleep requirements affect your daily activity. To improve sleep hygiene, having a pre-bed routine including turning off the lights, perhaps taking a bath before bedtime, ensuring the room is cool, avoiding alcohol and caffeine just before bed and disconnecting from electronics half an hour before bed. Self-love implies self-discipline.
Some people do not sleep well at night due to chronic snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea happens when your throat muscles relax and block your airway from time to time when you are asleep. The problem is that it cuts off oxygen supply to your brain during these brief episodes. You can manage this by sleeping on your side. If you experience any of the following, you need to see a doctor: if you snore so loud that you disturb your sleep or that of others; you wake up gasping or choking; you stop breathing from time to time, or you experience excessive daytime drowsiness.
Watch this space for more practical ways to love yourself with a healthy lifestyle.