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When our ways do more harm than good!

In a week in which there were several pronouncements on health, two stand out for us. In fact, you could say, they equally took us by surprise.

The first came in the form of a personal testimony from one of this island’s most respected ladies.

Dame Billie Miller’s tearful account of the recent loss of her youngest brother, a triple amputee, to diabetes was as inspiring as it was moving to those of us more familiar with her tough and seemingly always-in-control, commanding public image.

But after being exposed to her more delicate side, our hope is that all of Barbados will join with her, not only in her public declaration of war against this dreaded illness, which currently afflicts close to 20 per cent of our adult population, but also in kicking some of those rather unnecessary lifestyle habits that really do us more harm than good.

Lest we forget, Barbados already has the very dubious honour of being the “the amputee capital of the world”. Equally unflattering is the reference to us as “the diabetes capital”. We therefore agree with Dame Billie that that is certainly not something we should be proud of. Definitely not!

And not only on account of what it says about us and our lack of self-discipline, but also of our unwillingness –– both as individuals and a group –– to stop “cold turkey”, if we have to, and take another direction.

If you have any doubt, just look at the statistical evidence all around: 56.6 per cent of men, and 68.8 of women are obese, or overweight; up to 35 per cent of adults are hypertensive.

Of the 382 million diabetic patients globally, over 40,000 are from Barbados.

Recently, our health officials have also been raising concern about the rise in obesity and overweight among children, which in 2012 was reported to be 30 per cent.

And if you believe that is the full extent of our health crisis, think again!

We are not even going to get into the whole threat of Ebola today, but the other startling warning that came this week from four very respected family physicians was about prostate screening.

For those of us who may have thought that screening was always best, there came a word of caution from Dr Peter Adams, Dr Colin Alert, Dr Joseph Herbert and Dr Malcolm Howitt, who questioned why officials were promoting the prostate specific antigen test (PSA) without full discussion on its benefits and harms.

“While the test currently used –– the prostate specific antigen (PSA) –– can detect prostate cancer, the available evidence suggests that very few lives are saved, and screening often leads to unnecessary testing and treatment,” they said, while noting that no better screening test had yet been developed.

“. . . The United States Preventative Services Task Force and the Canadian Task Force On Preventative Health Care, both well respected government-funded institutions do not recommend prostate screening,” they stated.

Food for thought. And while we are at it, we may want to consider as well Dame Billie’s advice that we engage in better eating habits.

“I stopped eating sugar, buying sugar or putting sugar in anything that I had to eat when I was 23 years old. I am 70 years old now; so that tells you how long. There are things I don’t bring into my house. I don’t bring into my kitchen anything that I should not eat.

“Now it doesn’t mean that I don’t sin sometimes when I’m eating out, and nowadays I don’t eat out as much as I used to,” explained Dame Billie, a cancer survivor for 22 years.

She told Barbados TODAY that she and her sister had decided they were at high risk of diabetes at a young age and had changed their lifestyles to suit.

With more and more children presenting with Type 1 diabetes, we also recommend regular exercise.

What’s with all this exertion, you may ask? From where we sit, it could do us all a whole lot of good!

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