At your medical check up your physician tells you that to lower your chances of getting heart disease or hypertension you should keep your daily salt intake to between one half to one teaspoon per day, and that you should also view at least one ‘Oliver’ video per day. If laughing will improve your health, then who wouldn’t want to make that a part of his or her daily routine? Have you had your laugh quotient for today?
When most of us hear that we have to increase our level of physical activity if we want to control our weight and avoid diabetes and other related health problems, we may feel overwhelmed by the task. But if we are given the information that a 20-minute walk every day can add years to your life and ‘life to your years’, then increasing physical activity does not seem so daunting.
The underlying component that will ensure success in shifting lifestyles so as to avert, or at least forestall, health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes is to enjoy the actions involved in making those changes.
All of these considerations are in focus this month since February is not only Black History Month, it is also Heart Month and, as we well know, Black people, especially those who live in urban areas, have a pattern of a higher than average rate of hypertension and diabetes.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recently published annual report on the state of health in Canada, nine out of 10 Canadians are not taking seriously their risk factors for heart disease, which include being overweight or physically inactive.
But even with that national figure, people of African/Caribbean descent are still three times more likely than White Canadians to have high blood pressure, while Canadians of South East Asian, Latin American and African ethnicity face three to four times greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to the general population.
As a simple way of determining your range of being at risk, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends measuring your waistline. A male or female person of African descent with a waistline that is within 8 cm (3 inches) of, or greater than, the cutoff of 102 cm or 40 inches for males and 88 cm or 35 inches for females should consult his or her family doctor as a step to beginning a lifestyle change toward improving health. If you are of South Asian descent then the waistline figures for males and females respectively are 90 cm or 35 inches and 80 cm or 32 inches.
A person does not have to even be significantly at risk to begin to take these matters seriously. If there is a history of these conditions in your family, even if you are not imminently at risk, it just makes sense to err on the side of caution.
Lasting lifestyle changes begin with small steps. For instance, I know a woman who has decided at long last to give up her habit of eating cookies. This was a person whose fondness for sweets was only a small concern to her. Yet, she decided not to let it go any further. Her method for letting go of the cookie habit, she has said, was to first understand that having the first cookie was as troublesome as having the fifth. So she put aside the first cookie. She has also put in place alternative snacks so that when the craving for the cookies comes, she has a ready substitute at hand. She has replaced cookies with celery. Remarkably, with just this one small change she has been able to lose two kilograms within the space of two months. She also pointed out that she hasn’t given up eating cookies, but that she has put off having any just for today. Maintaining this practice only on a day-by-day basis makes the strategy doable for we need to know that we can adopt these changes and still enjoy each day.
A note on hearts and flowers…
They were out in their legions again last Valentine’s Day Monday, men of all descriptions cradling carefully wrapped bouquets of flowers of various sizes. The 6:30 p.m. rush hour lineups at Toronto flower shops and floral departments of supermarkets looked more like the hour before closing time on a holiday weekend at the LCBO.