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Your habits shape your health

Most of us have grown up with some ingrained habits. Some good, some bad, and some just plainly stupid. Some things we do subconsciously, but we still knowingly get onto pretty unhealthy habits. Being conscious of healthier behavior steers us clear of diseases we could well do without.

You may have heard of the rising rates of non-communicable diseases globally. The phrase itself may throw you off-guard, and you might start thinking of alien diseases. That’s hardly the case, we are talking of illnesses that are already common place: heart disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and cancers, among others. The WHO estimates that about 36 million people die from non-communicable diseases every year. As if that’s not bad enough, 80% of such deaths occur in low to middle income countries. That’s right where we are.

You might be wondering why your habits matter in all this. Simple, most of the preventable non-communicable diseases are accounted for by only four risk factors. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol intake and unhealthy diets, period. There you are, all clearly avoidable by personal choice. And to be fair, an enabling environment in terms of public health policy needs to be in place, with the right investments in promoting and controlling non-communicable diseases.

You might think you are not at risk, but you would be dead wrong. All of us are at risk; the young, the middle-aged and the elderly alike. Look around the city streets and obesity will stare right back at you. Most urban folk live sedentary lifestyles. Despite anti-smoking initiatives, you are daily faced with individuals inhaling thick smoke into their lungs. Alcohol hardly deserves any mention, it’s all over our news more often than is desirable. The combination of sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diet is lethal, but we can’t seem to find a way of avoiding this.

You can choose to modify your habits, and be healthier. Stop smoking, not just tobacco but other drugs as well. Take alcohol in moderation, or stop altogether. Increase your daily physical activities. This doesn’t mean fancy gym memberships. Take any excuse to walk more. Use the stairs instead of elevators whenever possible. Do some household chores, it all adds up. End your day with a plateful of healthy foods. Lots of unrefined carbohydrates, greens and vegetables, lean meats etc. Wash it all down with water or fresh juices, not another glass of alcoholic or sugar-laden soft drinks.

Once you master a healthy lifestyle, spread it around to your family, friends and neighbors. Collectively, we can reduce the rates of communicable diseases just by changing our habits. It’s really that simple.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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