The Bible is not a nutrition textbook. However, it gives us all the necessary guidance for righteous and healthy living. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…” (Romans 15:4; 2Timothy 3:16,17). The dietary laws God gave to the Israelites through Moses in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 show that God is interested in the food we eat. One of the reasons why God gave them those laws at that time was to protect them from certain diseases.
As a woman living in a world of increasing famines, diseases, environmental pollution and poverty, you need to pay close attention to what you eat and how you eat because your health is directly determined by what you eat. We must prepare our bodies for vitality if we are to be effective in carrying out our domestic responsibilities as mothers and wives as well as our Lord’s Great Commission.
The Christian’s body is God’s temple by virtue of the fact that God the Holy Spirit indwells her (1 Corinthians 3:16). So to do anything injurious to this body constitutes a sin.
Just as we teach our toddlers not to eat any piece of trash found on the ground so we learn from the dietary laws God gave the Israelites that we have to eat right in order to live well and be protected from diseases. Someone said, “If we only know enough, all diseases could be prevented, and could be cured, through proper nutrition.”
(1) Little or No Meat
Research has shown that the digestion of animal protein (with the exception of cultured diary products such as buttermilk and yoghurt) depletes the body’s natural supply of pancreatic enzymes believed to be essential for destroying an invading malignancy. Hence, diet therapist often call for little or no meat.
(2) Whole Natural Food
Because processed foods are notoriously void of many essential nutrients and may also have cancer-causing additives, innovative doctors stress the importance of whole, natural foods in the diet.
(3) Raw Fruits and Vegetables
Most doctors using nutritional therapy, especially for cancer, recommend that 80 percent or more of the fruits and vegetable in the diet be raw. Reason: only in raw foods are the maximum amounts of enzymes, vitamins and minerals preserved. Due to their nutritional value and cleansing effect, raw vegetable juices play a major role in the degenerative disease therapy.
(4) High Fibre Content
Research has revealed a definite connection between colon cancer and other degenerative diseases, and the low fibre diet characteristic of highly processed foods. A high fibre diet results in frequent elimination and better cleansing of toxins from the colon. Whole natural foods such as whole grains, raw fruits and raw vegetables all have high fibre content.
Preservatives are chemicals added to processed food either to prevent quality deterioration or micro-organism growth. Either way, they result in extending the shelf life.
The concern over preservatives focuses mostly around three areas:
1) Food needs to be decomposed in digestion; do preservatives hamper digestion and assimilation of foods?
2) Since preservatives are inorganic chemicals, are our bodies being “embalmed” by them?
3) Many food additives have been found to cause cancer; do preservatives encourage cancer? Let’s examine some of them.
(A) SODIUM NITRITE
Most processed meats including hot dogs, hams, bacon and sausages contain sodium nitrite as preservative. The meat processing industry uses the ingredient as a colour fixer to make foods look more attractive and appealing. Yet sodium nitrite is a precursor to some potent cancer-causing chemicals that accelerate the formation and growth of cancer cells throughout the body. According to Mark Adams, author of the Grocery Warning Manual, “When consumers eat sodium nitrite in popular meat products, nitrosamines (cancer-causing chemicals) are formed in the body where they promote the growth of various cancers.”
(B) SODIUM BENZOATE
Also known as benzoic acid, sodium benzoate is often used as a natural preservative in liquid drinks (soft drinks, juices etc) and in processed foods such as jams, salad dressings and pickles. According to nutrition experts, by itself, there’s little or no evidence that sodium benzoate causes any problems in people. But when mixed with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a chemical reaction occurs and benzene is formed. Unfortunately, benzene is a proven cancer-causing chemical. In an effort to make their drinks more nutritious, many soft drink manufacturers in recent years are adding vitamin C to their drinks and juices. Since most of these drinks already contain sodium benzoate, the mixture poses serious health risks.
Calcium propionate and sodium propionate are mold inhibitors in bread. Propionates have been shown to cause allergic reactions in the gastro-intestinal area and migraine headaches.
Flavourings form the largest category of food additives. They are often added to processed foods. Most of these are synthetic. They are not food and tests are revealing their dangers. Common salt (Sodium Chloride) the oldest flavouring should be taken sparingly because it is not food, it cannot be digested or assimilated. When taken in excess, it causes harm to the heart and robs the body of calcium.
Many other synthetic flavours and flavour-enhancers exist. They are used by food producers because consumers have demanded more and more flavours to tickle their taste buds. These on analysis are found to be detrimental to health. Colouring, dyes, and artificial sweeteners are to be avoided as much as possible.
HEALING FOODS (Psalm 103:1-5)
In Genesis 1:26-31, the Bible says that God has blessed man and given every herb (plant) bearing seed for meat, that is, for food so as to have a healthy body. From scientific findings, food has been discovered to contain curative properties. Food is regarded as a potent medicine. People who eat right will build up healthy and strong bodies. The following are some foods/fruits and what they can do in the body:
- PAPAYA (PAWPAW): High in digestive properties, with tonic effect on the stomach.
- ONION: A good blood medicine; lowers blood cholesterol; thins blood; retards clotting in the heart; regulates blood sugar and relieves bronchial congestion.
- MELON: Lowers the rate of lung cancer; rich in beta-carotene; also an effective blood thinner.
- MUSHROOM: Lowers blood cholesterol; thins blood, and stimulates the immune system.
- LEMON/LIME: Helps lowers blood cholesterol.
- LETTUCE: Promotes good digestive effects in the intestinal tract.
- CUCUMBERS: Cooling effects on the body; purifying effect on the bowel; used as a digestive aid.
- CORN: Rich in fibre and vitamins.
- CHERRY: An excellent blood-builder.
- CABBAGE: Rich in vitamins; lowers the risk of cancer, for example, of the colon; kills bacteria, viruses and prevents ulcers.
- CARROTS: Cut down the chances of contacting cancer of the pancreas; good for the eyes and hairs; eaten to prevent constipation; lowers blood cholesterol.
- GARLIC: Stimulates activity of the digestive organs thereby relieving problems associated with poor digestion; also used to emulsify cholesterol and loosen it from the arterial walls.
- EGG PLANTS (GARDEN EGG): For balancing diets that are heavy in starch and protein; blocks certain viruses and cancer-causing agents; helps protect the arteries from cholesterol damage.
- WATER MELON: Rich in vitamins.
- WALNUTS: Rich in fibre and vitamins; lowers blood cholesterol and regulates blood sugar.
- TOMATO: Supplies beta-carotene and tycopene (anti-cancer agent).
- YOGHURT: Prevents intestinal infection; contains chemicals that prevent ulcers; improves bowel functions; lowers blood cholesterol and strengthens the immune system. Rich in calcium; good for bone and teeth. Scientists have found several cancer-fighting properties in yoghurt.
- SOYA BEAN: Regulates functions of the colon; said to reduce constipation; prevents bowel problems; used to reduce blood cholesterol; regulates blood sugar; lowers blood pressure; contains a chemical called lignans that helps to fight off breast and colon cancer.
- POP CORN: Good source of intestinal roughage.
20.PUMPKIN: Lowers rate of lung cancer; rich in beta-carotene.
- PINEAPPLE: Excellent blood builder; used to aid digestion and catarrh conditions. Also good for bone building.
- PEARS: A good intestinal and bowel regulator.
- ORANGE: Protects the arteries from diseases; fights arterial plaque and lowers blood cholesterol; citrus fruits have definite anticancer capabilities.
- OLIVE: Said to be good for heart diseases; thins blood; lowers blood pressure; and reduces cholesterol.
- HONEY: Has some disinfectant properties for wound and sores; recommended for the relief of asthma; soothes sore throats; calms nerves and induces sleep. Don’t give to a child under one year.
- GRAPES: A good blood purifier; also good for catarrh conditions.
- AVOCADO: Good for colitis(an inflammatory bowel disease) and ulcers.
- APPLE: Keeps the cardiovascular system healthy by stabilizing blood sugar and lowering blood cholesterol ; people who eat more apples have higher resistance to cold and upper respiratory ailments. Apple skins are recommended to help control urinary infections.
- SPINACH: Good for blood supply, and helps with eye problem; eases the bowels, and provides relief from catarrh.
- WHEAT: Rich in 16 minerals, iron, phosphorus and calcium including vitamin E.
- JUICE: Juices from guava, carrot, cucumber, beet, tomatoes, apple, pawpaw etc. are rich in vitamins and minerals.
It is worth noting that some foods should not be mixed or eaten together for health reasons. Wrong food combination often results in indigestion or poor digestion. Therefore:
* Do not eat acidic fruits (oranges, grapefruit, pineapples, tomatoes) with carbohydrates. It prevents proper digestion. Rather, take acid fruits 15-30 minutes before the meal.
* Do not eat two concentrated proteins at the same meal e.g nuts and meat, egg and milk, cheese and milk, cheese and egg etc to prevent high cholesterol level.
* Do not eat melons (water melon, musk melon, cantaloupe etc) with other foods. They should be taken alone because they decompose rapidly.
* Take milk alone. For adults, yoghurt is easier to digest than milk. Choose low-fat or non-fat varieties of dairy products.
* Overeating starchy foods at a meal may lead to fermentation and poisoning of the body. Diabetic patients especially should avoid meals that contain only carbohydrate.
* Do not eat fats with proteins; avoid fatty meat; use lean meat, white meat (chicken, turkey, rabbit etc) and fish.
As much as possible, also avoid the following:
* Eating snacks between meals.
* Drinking caffeinated products .
* Eating fried foods.
* Eating junk foods candy, cookies, meat pies etc.
* Eating too much meat.
* Eating salad with excessive salad dressing.
* Eating vegetables drenched with butter or sour cream.
* Taking dessert (cake, custard) at every meal.
Rather, go for :
* Fresh fruits and vegetables.
* Healthful snacks, decaffeinated fruit drinks, whole grain crackers etc.
* Whole wheat flour or other whole grain flours. You can purchase the grains, clean and grind them yourself.
* Cold-pressed cooking oil e.g olive oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil etc.
* Yoghurt – plain or frozen.
* Vitamin and mineral supplements.
* Organically-grown fruits and vegetables.
* Honey, instead of sugar.
* Nuts (raw, unsalted almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, soy nuts etc).
And always read labels and choose foods free from sugar, bad-fats etc.
Many misconceptions abound on the concept of fitness. Some people believe fitness means being thin or lean, while others think it is being muscular. But fitness goes beyond these. It is a combination of qualities that enable us to perform vigorous physical activities. It is the state of being fit, suitable, appropriate and competent (in good form). Fitness also means being in good physical condition (i.e. being healthy), as a result of exercise, proper nutrition and rest.
Physical fitness is the capacity to cope with daily routines which include occupation and lifestyle routines without undue tiredness, and with ample reserve of energy and zeal for recreation and emergencies. In other words, it is the body’s capacity to carry out work and protect itself against disease, infection, and the effects of physical discomforts like heat, cold and stress.
Components of Physical Fitness
Complete physical fitness is made up of many components. However, for the average person involved in moderately tasking occupation or lifestyle, the major components are: flexibility, muscle strength, muscle endurance, body composition and cardio-respiratory endurance.
This is the ability to move joints and stretch muscles through their full range of motion. A person who is very flexible, for instance, can bend over and touch the floor easily; the reverse is the case with someone with flexibility problems. Good flexibility in the joints can help prevent injuries through all stages of life. While it is natural to lose some level of flexibility as we get older, there are steps you can take to improve your flexibility through the years. For instance, you can make up your mind to always stretch before and after every physical activity. Stretching increases the range of motion and helps to stimulate muscle growth.
Muscle strength is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert maximum force for a brief time. It is the ability to perform some work of maximum intensity at once e.g., lifting a heavy object.
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle to sustain a contraction, or make multiple contractions, over an extended period without undue fatigue. Put simply, it is the amount of time that your muscles are able to do a certain activity before they get tired.
This refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. A particular ratio of fat to lean mass is an indication of one’s level of health and fitness.
Also called stamina, aerobic endurance, cardio-vascular endurance or oxidative endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply sufficient oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body during sustained physical activity. Your cardio-respiratory endurance level is of utmost importance because It reflects how well your heart and lungs work together to supply essential necessities to your body during exertion and exercise.
Exercise is a series of repeated activities, physical and physiological which could be aimed at: maintaining fitness and health, increasing the tensile strength of any tissue (increasing ability and productivity), reduction in body weight and recreation. Combined with good nutrition and rest, moderate-intensity exercise is an indispensable factor in any woman’s efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Types of Exercise
Exercise comes in many different forms from the simple everyday exercise of just walking and running to more vigorous fitness routines such as press-ups and cycling. Many people think that for exercise to be beneficial to our health it has to be the vigorous type; but research has shown that exercise done in a moderate form is actually more beneficial to our health. Depending on factors such as your age, state of health and fitness goals, you could choose which form of exercise to engage in. Even if you’re pregnant, you could still engage in some mild forms of exercise. An expert explains this further: “Exercise has important health benefits for all women, including those who are pregnant. Most pregnant women can establish an exercise routine that will help improve their health and reduce symptoms or complications associated with pregnancy and labour and delivery. In addition, a woman who maintains a high level of fitness during pregnancy is more likely to quickly return to her pre-pregnancy health, figure and weight after her baby is born. Exercise can help women ease many pregnancy-related complications, including, gestational diabetes (a temporary form of diabetes related to pregnancy), bladder and bowel problems, backache, fatigue and varicose veins.”
Benefits of Exercise
Research has shown that exercise helps women generally in the following ways:
(1) Exercise helps women to maintain a healthy weight. It helps a woman to burn excess calories and help prevent them from being stored as fat.
(2) It helps women build stronger muscles. While most women begin losing muscle strength as early as age 25, it has been established that strength training can slow down or even reverse this process.
(3) It helps to lower the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.
(4) It helps to increase bone strength and density. This can help protect a woman from osteoporosis (a thinning of the bones that often occurs after menopause). Women who strengthen their bones at a younger age are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life. (5) It improves emotional health. Studies show that regular exercise can help women feel happier, less anxious and more relaxed.
As important as exercise is, it can be counterproductive if done at the wrong time or in the wrong way. If you observe any of the following signs during or after exercise, it means something is wrong somewhere: dizziness, fainting attack, headache, chronic fatigue, gasping for breath, severe pain in the chest and joints, tremor, muscle cramps, excessive palpation, sleeplessness etc. It could be that you’re engaging in the wrong kind of exercise, or that you’re doing the exercise at the wrong time or in the wrong way. To avoid the risks associated with problematic exercise, the following guidelines will be of help:
(1) Choose the most appropriate type of exercise for you. Understand your personal limitations and exercise accordingly. Note that you’re not competing with anyone for a prize. (2) Don’t exercise when you’re ill or feverish.
(3) Don’t engage in vigorous activities immediately after eating.
(4) Adjust exercise to the weather. Be careful especially of hot weather.
(5) Aerobic exercise should always be started with a proper warm-up, before the main exercise.
(6) Wear proper clothing and shoes.
KILL THESE SILENT KILLERS
Good health is a state of complete physical, social and mental well-being. And God’s desire for all His children is that we remain in good health all the days of our life: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2). Unfortunately, this has not been the case for many women. A good number of womenfolk suffer from a wide range of ill-health emanating from unhygienic lifestyle/habits and negative mental attitudes and dispositions. Medically, it is proved that many of the illnesses people suffer, and how long they suffer a particular sickness, are closely linked to wrong negative attitudes of the mind. Such diseases or sicknesses which thrive on negative mental attitudes, medical experts term psychosomatic diseases. Psychosomatic diseases are silent killers because they destroy subtly and imperceptibly. There are other silent killers, such as HIV and cancers as we shall consider in this article. Every woman should particularly beware of these silent killers because her peculiar nature makes her very vulnerable to them.
Silent Killer Habits and Practices
(1) Worry and anxiety: In response to environmental and social demands, women tend to worry about so many things – what to eat, where to live, how to take care of the children (unborn ones inclusive), how to settle bills, getting along with husbands and in-laws etc. This increases tension and may lead to hypertension.
(2) Having too much to do without proper plan and balance: This often leads to stress and confusion. Plan your work and avoid ‘biting more than you can chew’ in a day.
(3) Lack of rest and over-activity: Getting enough rest is imperative to living a healthy lifestyle and when you do not relax and get enough sleep you are putting yourself at the risk of illness as well as other dangerous side effects. When you don’t get enough rest you will have difficulty concentrating, thinking clearly, and even remembering things. You might not notice this at first or blame it on your busy schedule, but the more sleep and rest you miss, the more serious these symptoms will become.
(4) Fear fed by unbelief in the heart: Women have a lot of fears – fear of children’s security, husband’s fidelity, prevailing disease in the community, fear of what might happen to the baby in the womb, etc. What many do not realize is that fear creates turmoil and chaos in our lives and contributes to ailments such as migraines, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and depression. The human body is not meant to live in a state of fear. Adrenaline was made for emergency situations only. Yet people are imperceptibly subjecting themselves to fear and anxiety every single day. It is no wonder our health suffers. But “…God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of love, power and of a sound mind…” (2Timothy1:7).
(5) Allowing build up of stress from responsibilities: So much is laid upon the woman: she may be a wife, mother, secular worker and Christian worker, saddled with so many responsibilities. When these are not properly planned and balanced they become stressful and make the woman to be nervous. This could result in peptic ulcer.
(6) Anger and rage: These trigger excessive production of certain hormones in the body which may result in stroke, heart attack, or paralysis. According to new research findings, all of the negative energy exerted in moments of anger isn’t just a waste of time or a minor nuisance; it can lead to serious health complications that shorten lifespan and interfere with quality of life.
(7) Bitterness and unforgiving attitude: Some women are known to be experts in these negative attitudes, which can cause both physical and spiritual illnesses. There may be loss of appetite, loss of weight, peptic ulcer and psychosomatic problems.
(8) Allowing self pity and depression: Depression involves sadness, pessimism, a preoccupation with personal problems, and feeling sorry for oneself. It could also be accompanied by fatigue, excessive sleeping, insomnia, anguish, crying, and hopelessness. Other possible symptoms include poor appetite, heavy eating, weight loss or gain, feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness, anxiety, regrets, decreased productivity, poor concentration, or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
(9) Bad feeding habits: Skipping meals, overeating, eating at irregular times, eating the wrong types of food and unbalanced diet can predispose the woman to excessive weight gain (obesity), and diabetes mellitus. Women, by their privileged position in preparing meals at home, tend to eat in-between meals. This contributes greatly to their weight gain.
(10) Smoking of cigarettes, cigar, pipes and taking of snuff: This predisposes one to heart attacks and cancer, especially of the lungs.
(11) Taking hard drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc). This could lead to serious mental problems.
(12) Nonchalant attitude to health matters: Some women don’t pay much attention to health-related issues, ideas and discussions. This set of people leave everything, including their health, to fate. They believe they can’t do much to improve their health and this makes them flout health rules and shun helpful ideas about their health. This is a very dangerous attitude.
(13) Laziness/Lack of exercise: Lack of exercise causes lots of physical and psychological setbacks. It increases one’s chances of developing heart disease and increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
(14) Flirting and adultery: These immoral attitudes could lead an individual to contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV/AIDS, loss of self respect, and debasing of the dignity of manhood/womanhood.
(15) Poor personal and environmental hygiene: A woman unable to maintain a good personal and environmental hygiene will expose herself and members of her household and even neighbours to numerous health hazards.
Some common killer diseases caused by these killer habits include:
(1) Obesity: This is an excessive accumulation of fat in the body which leads to great increase in weight. It is determined by the index of BMI (Body Mass Index) whereby the weight in kilograms is divided by the height in metres squared. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9, while obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or more. The primary cause of obesity is consumption of more calories (food) than the body needs or uses. It is also caused by insufficient exercise. Obesity favours the development of many other diseases such as diabetes mellitus, gall stones, hypertension, inguinal and hiatus hernia, varicose vein, uterine prolapse and tiredness from overwork on the heart and lungs.
(2) Diabetes mellitus: This is a metabolic disease characterized by excessive urination (with sugar in the urine), weight loss (due to excessive urination), excessive craving for water, and general body weakness. It has an attendant raised blood-sugar level as a result of inadequate secretion of a hormone called insulin. Contributory factors are overeating, alcohol consumption, excessive craving for sweetened/sugary foods and drinks. This, if not well controlled, will affect many other systems of the body and can cause diseases and/or untimely death. Change of feeding habit, regular exercise, and weight-shedding will go a long way to prevent diabetes.
(3) High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): High blood pressure means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. The arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to all of the tissues and organs of the body. Normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and below 140/90mmHg. Thus, a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg and above is considered high blood pressure. The top number, which is known as the systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries. The diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after the contraction. The diastolic pressure, therefore, reflects the minimum pressure to which the arteries are exposed. 85-90% of people with high blood pressure have primary hypertension where the cause is unknown. 10-15% of people have secondary hypertension which is caused by other ailments such as kidney disorder or hormonal disorder. Hypertension can lead to heart-disease, stroke, paralysis and death. Predisposing factors include obesity, diabetes, emotional tension, stress and heredity.
(4) Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial infection. It is spread through the air and usually infects the lungs, although other organs and parts of the body can be involved as well. Most people who are infected with tuberculosis at the latent stage harbour the bacterium without serious symptoms. Symptoms associated with this stage include weight loss, fever, night sweats, and loss of appetite. If the affected individual is adequately treated, he gets cured. However, if left untreated, the latent TB will degenerate into the active TB disease, which has chronic and debilitating symptoms, including severe cough, chest pain, and bloody sputum.
(5) Cancers: Cancer is a disease of cells. It is an abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to metastasize (spread). First, cells begin to grow out of control in the body. Second, those cells have the ability to travel from their original site to other locations in the body. If the spread is not controlled, cancer can result in death. The most common forms of cancer are skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer (mostly in women), and prostate cancer (mostly in men).
(6) HIV/AIDS: AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). By damaging or destroying the cells of your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to effectively fight off viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause disease. This makes you more susceptible to certain types of cancers and to opportunistic infections your body would normally resist, such as pneumonia and meningitis. The virus and the infection itself are known as HIV. The term Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is used to mean the later stages of an HIV infection. Immoral sexual relationship, use of infected sharp instruments like needles, tattooing instruments, razor blade, shaving instruments, and transfusion of infected blood could cause HIV/AIDS and its attendant problems.
(1) Enter into covenant relationship with God by being born again through repentance and faith in Christ and thereafter live a righteous and holy life daily in following the Lord. Doing this gives you right to enjoy all the covenant blessings of the Lord in all areas of your life – spiritual, health, finance, family, etc. (Exodus 3:25; 15:26; 3John 2; 1 Peter 2:24)
(2) Take the following preventive measures against the silent killers:
(i) Learn to always carry your problems, cares and concerns to the Lord in prayer. Leave them there at His feet with a simple childlike trust “casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7;Philipians 4:6). Doing this takes care of all worries, anxiety, fears.
(ii) Always put the best (positive) construction on every situation of life and on what people say to or about you. This helps a great deal to keep your mind and heart healthy and sound to think and act right always as well as develop the best attitude to life. (Philippians 4:8)
(iii) Learn to always forgive every offence. Pray for grace and make up your mind to do so. (iv) Obey simple health rules.
(v) Eat good and balanced diet with fruits and vegetables at regular intervals and at the right time.
(vi) Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene.
(vii) Do exercise regularly, and
(viii) Rest. Sleep of 6-8 hours a day is ideal.
(ix) Go for routine check-up at six-month intervals.
(x) Do regular BP checks at every available opportunity. You can buy your own digital sphygmomanometer (Blood Pressure equipment) to check your blood pressure regularly.
(xi) Regular self breast-examination, Pap smear and early reporting of any abnormal swelling or growth in any part of the body will help a lot in cancer screening and prevention.
(x) Renew and strengthen your spirit always by daily reading and meditating on God’s word. Remember that your body needs a healthy mind to function effectively.
On a fateful Saturday night, two teenage girls whose parents were away got talking about a particular drug they had seen other people taking. The drug is often taken by young men and women because it removes moodiness and gets one excited, energetic and eager to socialize. Soon, their seemingly harmless chat led to a passionate urge to experiment with the drug. They went to a friend’s house, got the drug, and returned to their house to use it. Later that night, one of them began to feel feverish and nauseous. When it became very serious, their parents were contacted and the girl was rushed to a hospital. It was too late. She died later in another hospital where she was transferred.
The deceased teenager is just one out of the millions of lives that are lost yearly as a result of medication errors. Many more are admitted to emergency wards and intensive care units of hospitals on daily basis with diverse complications arising from medication errors. This is why you need to be well-informed about the causes, consequences and cure for medication mistakes.
Medication refers to a licenced drug taken to cure or reduce symptoms of an illness or medical condition, as well as the administration of such drug. Medication mistakes therefore refer to errors that arise from the prescription and use of drugs. From a more comprehensive and authoritative perspective, The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error and Prevention (NCCMERP) defines medication mistake as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm, while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.”
Forms of Medication Mistakes
(1) Mistakes from Medical Practitioners: Errors with medication can occur from medical practitioners due to oversight or outright incompetence. Some so-called doctors, nurses, pharmacists, chemists and specialists are not qualified; thus they exhibit gross incompetence in their prescriptions. These quacks are only interested in making money by taking advantage of people’s poverty, ignorance, gullibility and illiteracy. On the other hand are qualified medical practitioners who sometimes prescribe, dispense and administer drugs carelessly. This often leads to serious errors.
Some medication mistakes common with medical practitioners include incorrect drug selection for a patient; wrong or confused drug names (this occurs primarily when two or more drugs have a similar appearance or similar name), wrong dosage form or abbreviation; incorrect dosage calculations; incorrect dosage frequency; poorly-written prescriptions; use of verbal orders (which are soon forgotten by patients); wrong medication combinations; administration of fake or expired drugs; dispensing without seeing a written order; failure to check the patient’s identity prior to administration etc.
(2) Mistakes from patients/drug users: Medication mistakes common with drug consumers include drug abuse, addiction and self-medication.
Drug Abuse and Addiction
Drug abuse is the use of illicit drugs or the use of prescription drugs (drugs prescribed by doctors) or over-the-counter drugs (drugs bought from chemists) for purposes other than those for which they are indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than directed. Drug abuse is closely related to drug addiction, which is characterised by compulsive drug-craving, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of negative consequences. Many drug users are imperceptibly guilty of this. Because of the availability and usefulness of some drugs many people take them indiscriminately, paving the way for serious health problems. Some drugs often abused include caffeine (a slightly bitter stimulant found in coffee tea, kolanut, ilex plants, and in small amounts, in cocoa), analgesics/antipyretics (pain-relieving and fever-reducing drugs such as aspirin, paracetamol, acetaminophen, opium, morphine, heroin and codeine), antibiotics (these include drugs such as ampiclox, ampicillin and tetracycline), nicotine (a stimulant found predominantly in tobacco, and in lower quantities in tomatoes, potatoes, egg plants and green pepper), inhalers (especially for asthma patients), sedatives/tranquilizers/depressants (drugs used to relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness etc), and steroids (drugs administered in small quantities by physicians to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amount of testosterone, but often abused especially by athletes for muscle building and performance enhancement). The abuse and misuse of these otherwise useful drugs can lead to serious health problems such as dehydration, insomnia, restlessness, tumours, convulsions, amnesia, high blood pressure, paralysis, cancer brain damage or even death.
Self-medication is self prescription, dispensing and administration of drugs without a medical expert’s direction or supervision. This is tantamount to playing the role of your own doctor. Most drug-users assume that with a few physical signs and symptoms, they can easily diagnose and ascertain their type of illness and what medication to take for cure. This can be very dangerous and, in fact, deadly.
As much as possible, self medication should be avoided for the following reasons:
(i) Illnesses sometimes have deeper roots than what we see physically; and if you don’t see a competent doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible, the illness may degenerate to an intractable, fatal state.
(ii) Some illnesses have similar symptoms. You may think it’s one, whereas it’s the other.
(iii) Self medication could lead to dangerous drug interactions. A drug interaction occurs when two or more medicines combine in your body in a way that is potentially harmful or dangerous. Since you’re not a medical expert, you may not have knowledge of drugs that shouldn’t interact with one another. Self prescription and administration could therefore pose serious health risks.
(iv) Some drugs are ‘food-sensitive’ and this often leads to dangerous drug-food interaction. This happens when the food you eat affects the ingredients in a medicine. This is why some medicines are required to be taken on an empty stomach (1 hour before eating or 2 hours after eating). Only a competent professional can tell you which is which.
(v) Human body systems do not always function the same way. It is risky to assume that a drug will be good for you simply because it was effective for someone who had a similar illness with yours. This explains the riddle behind the death of one of the teenagers mentioned in the opening story. Obviously she and her sister had differences in the way their bodies reacted to drugs. You might be allergic to some drugs which worked smoothly for someone else.
Other medication mistakes common with patients/drug-users include:
(c) Not completing the dosage of a prescribed medicine .This is a very common mistake of drug users. Most often, because a sickness appears to have been cured while medicine is still being taken, drug users tend to discard the remaining dosage with the belief that it’s no longer necessary to continue with the medicine.
(d) Patronizing unapproved but cheap drug stores, pharmacies and hospitals.
(e) Leaving the doctor’s office without enough information and instructions on prescriptions and drugs.
(f) Mixing food-sensitive drugs with food.
(g) Not taking drugs at the right time or in the right quantity.
(h) Using multiple pharmacies/hospitals: “If you go to multiple pharmacies, they can’t screen for drug interactions because they won’t have a complete list of all the medications you are on” a doctor explained.
(i) Not storing medicine as directed.
(j) Keeping different tablets in the same jar.
Preventing Medication Errors
Medication errors are commonplace, yet, they are preventable. Michael Cohen, a medical expert, says, “You should expect to count on the health system to keep you safe, but there are also steps you can take to look after yourself and your family.” Some of these steps, as suggested by professional health counsellors include:
(1) Always ask for written instructions to take with you: Don’t just leave the doctor’s office with verbal instructions. Ask him to write because you may forget or confuse part of the verbal instructions
(2) Inspect your medication: When you receive your medication from the pharmacy, check it out. Look at its appearance: colour, shape, markings. Smell it. Does it look or smell differently. Are the directions on the bottle different than what the doctor told you in the office?
(3) Check your medication’s name: Many drugs sound alike and are spelt similarly. Be sure to double-check that the medication your doctor told you he or she was prescribing is, in fact, the drug you picked up from the pharmacy.
(4) Save package inserts / wrappings: Don’t throw away the package insert or outer wrapper that held your medication. You may need this for dosing instructions and for information about contra-indications (what drugs should not be used in conjunction with the medication).
(5) Question price changes: If the cost of your medication was different than the last time you purchased it, question it! You may find that it is the wrong medication.
(6) Inform your doctor about other medications: Tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking: prescription and over-the-counter, including nutritional supplements. If you do not tell your doctor about ALL the medications you are taking, you may be risking a bad drug interaction.
(7) Ask if there are interactions with any other medicines or dietary supplements (including vitamins or beverages, or foods).
(8) Make a list of your medications: Before leaving the hospital, go over your list of medications with your doctor, including dosing information. Make a list and take any notes that will help you when you get home. Have the doctor check the list or write the list for you. (9) Tell your doctor about medication allergies or sensitivities: Be sure to tell your doctor about any allergies you may have to medication.
(10) Handle sample medications carefully: Samples do not come with instructions on the packaging or other important information you may need. If your doctor gives you samples, he will typically write the instructions for you. Place those instructions in the package, if possible, or wrap them around the package with a rubber band.
(11) Carefully read and follow the directions on the label and the directions from your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional. If your doctor specifies taking your medicine before, with or after food, it is important that you follow these instructions.
(12) Complete the course/dosage of your prescribed medicine: If you want to stop taking your medicine or want to use the medicine differently than directed, consult with your health care professional. Many medicines need to be stopped slowly, with regular checks from a doctor to ensure there are no health problems. Moreover, you should not stop taking your medicine even if you feel better, as your doctor may have prescribed it to prevent recurrences of your condition, e.g. migraine and asthma medicines. If you experience any side-effects or the medicine doesn’t seem to be working as it should, contact your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. He or she may be able to prescribe/recommend an alternative.
(13) Don’t chew, crush, break or mix tablets or capsules unless your doctor has told you to do so. Some medicines have a special coating and will not work properly unless they are swallowed whole.
(14) Measure your medicine carefully (e.g. use a medicine spoon, or only inhale the recommended number of puffs). It is important to take only the recommended dose of your medicine, as too much can be harmful and too little might prevent the medicine from working properly. For liquid medicines, remember to shake the bottle before measuring out the correct amount, as some liquid medicines may ‘settle’ at the bottom of the bottle.
(15) Check medication expiration dates: Throw away any medication that has exceeded the expiration date.
(16) As much as possible, keep medicines in their original labelled containers.
(17) Never combine different medicines in the same bottle.
(18) Do not take medication in the dark where you can easily pick up the wrong container. (19) Never take medication which was prescribed for another person.
(20) Do not store medication in direct light, heat, or humidity.
(21) Be very familiar with the appearance of your drugs and notice if or when it changes.
(22) As much as possible, do not resort to self-medication.
(23) Do not patronise quack doctors or pharmacists.
(24) Ensure to take at least a full glass of water when taking tablets to avoid dehydration.