Why you should stop smoking now!

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Humans have been smoking for a while and it is not without ill effects. Smoking adversely affects all organs of the body and reduces the general quality of health.

According to the latest World Health Organisation estimates, tobacco eventually kills up to half of its users and kills nearly 6 million people each year, of whom more than 5 million are from direct tobacco use and more than 600 000 are nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

That smoking is injurious to the body has been widely publicized but the message has been largely ignored. Smoking is not only harmful but highly addictive. A single stick of cigarette contains 4000 chemicals which are poisonous and some cause cancer.

The chemicals that are most harmful are:

  • Tar, a substance that causes cancer.
  • Nicotine is highly addictive and causes physical and psychological dependency. It also increases cholesterol levels in your body.
  • Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells, preventing affected cells from carrying a full load of oxygen.
  • Components of the gas and particulate phases cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Smoking causes the following cancers:

  • Lung cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx (voice box)
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Cancer of the cervix
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Kidney cancer
  • Cancer of the oral cavity (mouth)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Cancer of the pharynx (throat)
  • Stomach cancer

Smoking is also associated with the following adverse health effects:

Cardiovascular diseases: Coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, stroke.

Smoking raises blood pressure, which can cause hypertension (high blood pressure) – a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

Smoking can cause fertility problems. Smoking also increases the risk of preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Smoking worsens asthma and counteracts asthma medication by worsening the inflammation of the airways that the medicine tries to reduce.

Smoking can damage the blood vessels in the eye, causing a bloodshot appearance and itchiness.

Smoking increases the risk of gradual loss of eyesight and cataracts.

Smoking stains your teeth and gums.

Smoking increases your risk of oral disease, which causes swollen gums, bad breath and teeth to fall out.

Smoking causes an acid taste in the mouth and contributes to the development of ulcers.

Smoking causes pale skin and more wrinkles. This is because smoking reduces the blood supply to the skin and lowers levels of vitamin A.

There is hardly any benefit to smoking and it has a lot of harmful effects. It is better not to start smoking for the sake of one’s health because stopping can be difficult.

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Are we (literally) eating our hearts out?

image from chriskresser.com

While it may be good to take some things ‘with a pinch of salt’, we may not want to take this advice literally.

Too much salt may be harmful to us by predisposing us to hypertension, stroke and heart disease. This is especially true about people who have immediate family members who have hypertension, stroke and heart disease. Hypertension harms the heart, kidneys, brain and even the eyes.

To be clear, salt is very important for the body’s proper functioning. It helps us conserve water in the body, it heps in balancing acids and bases in our body, it helps us maintain our blood volume and our muscles and nerves cannot function without it.

The problem is that most of us eat way too much salt, mostly out of habit, and our kidneys may not be able to get rid of all that salt and it accumulates in our bodies.

Salt (common salt or sodium chloride as the chemists will want us to call it) is made up of sodium and chloride and it is recommended that we take 2.4 grams of sodium a day which translates to 6 grams of sodium chloride a day (that’s just 1 teaspoon!). This 6 grams should include all of the naturally occuring salt in food, the one we use in cooking and the one we add at the table.

Too much salt in our diet contributes to hypertension, other heart diseases and stroke. (Several studies have shown this). Reducing the intake of salt can help prevent these diseases. We have to bear it in mind that our taste buds adjust and get accustomed to the amount of salt we take over time so they may need some time to adjust.

The following will help in reducing the amount of salt we eat:

  1. Not adding salt to food on the dining table.
  2. Using spices and herbs (eg onion, garlic, ginger, thyme) to add flavour to our cooking thereby reducing the amount of salt required.
  3. Buying fresh food and vegetables instead of processed and canned food (a great deal of salt is used to preserve these canned foods!)
  4. Using less salt that the recipe demands.
  5. Rinsing canned foods to wash off some of the salt.
  6. Choosing low sodium canned food if we opt for processed food (read the labels!).
  7. Going easy on mayonnaise and ketchup, they are high in salt.
  8. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Eating too much salt is more of a habit and for our long term well-being we should kick this habit, shouldn’t we?

Caveat: some of us may have low salt in our body and I would not recommend this but this will help people with a family history of hypertension, stroke or heart disease.

Deadlier than HIV?

Almost everyone knows or at least has heard about the HIV virus and the fact that it is incurable and

vaccination

image from national mirror

all that. It has enjoyed media attention and a significant level of awareness has been created. About 8million Nigerians live with HIV and a decline in the prevalence rate has been recorded for a couple of years now.

There is another viral disease affecting more than twice the number of Nigerians affected by HIV, more infectious than HIV but less known and less talked about and unlike HIV it is totally vaccine preventable.

Hepatitis is what I am talking about and it refers to a group of viral infections that affect the liver. There are 5 types A,B,C,D and E. Hepatitis B and C  are of the greatest concern of which B is the deadliest.

Hepatitis B affects 20 million Nigerians (1 in 8 Nigerians) but awareness is abysmally low. Most people that have it are not aware and it can be in the body for decades without causing any symptoms until the liver’s function has been greatly compromised.

It is the commonest cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is transmitted through blood (sharing sharp objects, transfusion of infected blood, unsafe injections) and through sexual intercourse.

The good news is that it is preventable by vaccination and was included in Nigeria’s routine childhood immunization in the early 2000s but most adults are not immunized.

The earlier it is detected, the better the overall outcome for the individual and long term complications can be avoided.

Have you gone for Hepatitis B screening and have you gone for hepatitis B immunization? Please do share your experience in the comments.