It never rains; it pours!

What a week last week was! It started with the preparation for Margaret Thatcher’s burial and the massive amounts allocated for that event. A lot was said about the rationale (or lack of it) for giving this lady, whose policies have always attracted strong emotions on both extremes from people. Whichever side of the divide you belong to, you are entitled to your opinion.This post is not about that.

Next, we were shocked with the news of the Boston bombings; the sheer carnage; the manhunt, eventual death of one suspect and capture of the other suspect. My heart goes out to all the people of Boston for the pain, sense of loss and ‘invasion of privacy’ this whole drama engendered. The resilience of the people of Boston and the speed with which information came through is amazing. My vocabulary has been enriched with words like ‘shelter-in-place’ as a result of this real life action drama that unfolded before our eyes! This post is however not about the Boston event.

From Boston, we moved momentarily to Texas, the site of a fertilizer factory explosion. Lives were lost, loads of people injured and houses destroyed. Again, this post is not about that.

So what is this piece about? It is about introspection; about the ephemeral nature of life…here today, gone tomorrow. I back tracked through the events of last week and decided to write about the cause of Margaret Thatcher’s death. Media reports claim that she died of stroke. Funny…that’s all we heard!

Did you pause for a moment to consider how that happened? Whether you are at risk of same? Are you hypertensive? Have you ever had a suspicious blood pressure reading? Have you bothered to check it again after that? Even if you have never been told that you are hypertensive, do you bother to check your blood pressure regularly? If you have been told, that you are hypertensive, do you take your prescribed drugs regularly? As and when due? Or when you feel like it? Or are you waiting for a symptom, maybe a headache or blurry vision to alert you to the fact that your blood pressure is acting up? Well, that sign may not come…little wonder hypertension is known as the silent killer.

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off either through blockage by a blood clot or through bursting of the vessel. This leads to poor blood supply and consequently, poor nutrient and oxygen to the brain. The effect of this is that the brain cells become damaged.

The pre-disposing factors to stroke are the usual suspects:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • Regular and heavy drinking
  • Old age

There are some of those factors above that you cannot prevent. For instance, we can’t choose the families that we are born into, so we really can’t do anything about family history of heart disease. We also can’t help growing old…it’s an inevitable fact of life (sob! sob). The other factors are well within our control and we can very well take decisive actions about them. In fact, the presence of the factors that we have no control over means that we should take even more seriously the other factors we can control in order to reduce risk.

If you’re hypertensive, ensure that you are taking your drugs as prescribed always. Make sure that your diet is in keeping with the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet…more fruits and vegetables in as close to their natural state as possible. Following this means that less oil and salt are used in cooking and ultimately reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Make sure you get some exercise everyday or at least most days of a week. Remember that the recommendation is 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes of exercise per day for 5 days or approximately 1 hour per day for 3 days. Be sure to spread this out and resist the temptation to be a weekend warrior….that’s the guy who wants make up all his 150 minutes over the weekend. Your heart may not be able to deal with this great amount of stress if it’s been ‘sedentary’ for too long. Ease your heart into the routine gradually by breaking up the sessions. If you have heart disease, be sure to speak with your doctor before starting on any rigorous exercise routine.

Speaking of heart rate, to exercise effectively, you need to be aware of what your target heart rate (THR)  is. This is the heart rate at which your body burns off calories most effectively and efficiently. It differs for everybody and is dependent on age. The formula for maximum heart rate is 220 – age for men and 226 – age for women. The THR should be within 50 – 70%  and 70 – 85% of the maximum heart rate for moderate and vigorous exercise, respectively.

Reduce your alcohol intake, if you already indulge. The recommended limits are 2-3 units per day for women (not more than 14 units in a week) and 3-4 units per day for men (not more than 21 units in a week). This translates to about half a glass of wine for women and one full glass for men; a can of beer for women and 2 for men. To keep you honest (;)), I am supplying the formula for calculating the number of units in any drink you take.

Volume (ml) x % alcohol/1000

Okay…let me answer the question I know you’re waiting to pounce and ask. How do you know the percentage alcohol in palm wine??? Well, palm wine fermented for 5 days contains about 4.5% of alcohol. Where in doubt, stick with the rule of thumb: one glass for the men and half for women per day. If you do not take any alcohol, the generous (in my opinion :D) limits allowed per day, do not indicate that this is a good time to start! 😉 Remember that even with the limits, drinking while pregnant, driving, taking medications etc is a bad idea!

Smoking has been shown to increase the probability of stroke and stopping reduces that risk.

Generally, the preventive tips for stroke are more or less the same for Diabetes, hypertension and essentially the lifestyle modifications needed to live a healthy life as has been discussed in my previous posts.

There’s no running away from it, guys. These wellness tips follow us around everywhere and are essential for a long and fulfilling life, not just in quantity but in quality. Margaret Thatcher lived to be 87 years before she died. That’s not a bad time to take a curtain call, but in Nigeria where the life expectancy is about 47 years, we need every excuse to ensure that we push the envelope and live long enough to make an impact.

So, are you in? I’m all in. Let’s do this!

Here’s to a healthier you!

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4 Responses to It never rains; it pours!

  1. Oyewole, Azeta says:

    Good talk.


  2. Tunde Owoade says:

    Highly educative and interesting. Pls keep the ball rolling Madam!


  3. Sunny says:

    Very educative. On point!


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