EDITORIAL: Healthy living is more important
THE APPARENT ALARM raised by so many Barbadians about reported “sudden” deaths in recent weeks is just another clear example of how misplaced our fears and concerns can be in today’s supposed modern Barbados.
It ought not to require any of us to engage any great amount of brain matter to recognise that while so many have been getting into a “huff and a puff” about these deaths, the real concern should be about how we live our lives. Death is inevitable, and while some of us appear to forget, we cannot determine when it should come.
However, there is more than enough scientific evidence to support the position that, all things being equal, practising a healthy lifestyle can counter many of the factors that bring on illness and eventually death.
By now it should be common knowledge that Barbados has a serious problem with the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases. Too many of us eat badly, – the wrong things, at the wrong times, in the wrong quantities. We fail to undertake even a minimum regime of exercise, and then compound it with the consumption of alcohol and tobacco in a manner that defies common sense.
But it is the first two that are particularly worrying to us. Our love affair with sugar, salt and macaroni pie, for example, has left too many of us overweight or obese, suffering from hypertension, diabetes, strokes and a host of other health-related challenges as well as a most unflattering label of the “amputation capital of the world”.
Too many of us have for years been trying to convince ourselves that limited finance, brought on by a depressed economy, means we can’t afford what our foreparents referred to “greens” and fruits and as a result, have been confined to a life of sugary drinks and processed foods. Yes, times are hard, but we do not buy the argument that better can’t be done. Traditional Bajan families have done far better with much less before there was a fast food joint, supermarket deli or “cook shop” on every corner, many of which serve a diet of deep fried stuff dripping with oil.
And as if that was not bad enough, there is now an apparent national pastime of avoiding any form of exercise. In addition to skirting anything that might resemble a deliberate period of daily exercise, we now will not even walk short distances to conduct business. A parking space anywhere but beside the entrance to the place of business is considered an insult and gross dereliction of duty on the part of the service provider.
Too many of us are also guilty of passing on the same bad attitudes to our children, providing them with flimsy excuses to avoid participation in sports or physical education classes. We then compound it with a new phenomenon – children who live only a few hundred metres from their school waiting at the bus stop for lengthy periods to catch a bus or van to travel three or four bus stops.
Under these circumstances, it cannot be hard for anyone to accept the conclusion of health lecturer Christina Howitt that only one in every ten women and four in every ten men in Barbados get enough physical daily exercise.
“As health researchers we’re often told to be responsible with our statistics, not to alarm the public,” Howitt said. “But I’ve got to be honest here. I find this pretty alarming. We have to increase the number of Barbadians who get enough activity and we have to increase the understanding of how much activity is enough.”
According to Howitt, the World Health Organisation recommends that each adult engage in just two and a half hours of moderately intense exercise per week. Surely it can’t be so hard for anyone to give up two and a half of the 168 hours in a week for the sake of good health.
It is time for us to stop stressing on where and why the last person dropped dead, and pay more attention to how we live.