There are many ways in which we can prevent death and diseases reaching us by undertaking simple procedures via our own actions. Lives may be cut short as a result of one or combination of:
- Infection such as E-coli, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs
- Genetic diseases: sickle cell disease
- Metabolic diseases such as diabetics or even nutritional disorders such as obesity
- Environmental poisoning and allergy: such as salmonella food poisoning and asthma.
- Degenerative diseases such as dementia
- Cancers such as breast and lung cancer
- Mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia
- Accidents, murders and suicides
- Absence of credible spiritual guidance in the manner of holistic care
Let us now discuss each of the above topics so as to help us live a healthy lifestyle.
Infections: Avoid all forms of infections. No infection is a good infection.
a) Viral infections: Beware of herpes infection that you can contract via kissing (Herpes Type 1) and through sex (Herpes Type 2). Note that Type 1 can become Type 2 and vice versa. Human Papiloma virus (HPV) can also be transmitted by getting in contact with infected genitals (penis, vagina, cervix and their surrounding areas), anus, mouth and throat. HPV can cause cancers (See Chapter on Cancers). On its own, HP virus can lead to cervical, throat, mouth and anal cancers.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C viruses you will remember, are a viruses commonly contacted via sex, blood transfusion, sharing of blood containing germs: such as in needles, blades, razors and of course through saliva (for HIV) or body fluids in general .
Image: copyright: BBC. Human immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Other viral infections that you may need to be aware of include flu infections that occur sporadically such as “swine” flu and the other common cold flu. Again, this can be transmitted via kissing and inhaling infected air. Thus, you may need to protect your family against any breakout of these viruses. Other methods of contacting viral infection are by use of tools or household things that have not been disinfected but had been used by infected person. Razor blades, shaving blades are examples. For some viral diseases such as wart affecting the feet, hands and legs, they can be transmitted by sharing infected common media such as shower floors, mats and swimming pool.
There are other viruses that may be a danger to new born or pregnant women and the baby: They are rubella and chicken pox viral infections. They are usually contacted if you get in contact with infected person. In early childhood, measles, polio virus are a serious threat to lives.
Prevention: The key to it all is not to come in contact with any infection. With the methods of transmission that have been mentioned above, you can identify how to avoid them and to protect yourself from these infections. The other method of prevention is to receive vaccination against these viruses (Please read the chapter on vaccinations). Some vaccinations are available for such as rubella, hepatitis B, polio (for children and adults) infections. HPV vaccinations are available for teenagers: boys and girls. Get vaccinated.
Bacteria infections are very common. You can live without them if you are careful. In some occasions, being infected by them has nothing to do with you but your handlers and carers including parents. Nevertheless, unlike viral infection, bacterial infection requires in most cases, a direct contact with them. In some occasions, as in tuberculosis, you can contact them via the infected air. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) , E-coli, requires to a large extent, a direct contact with infected source. Tetanus, on the other hand, requires you to get in touch with infected and dirty earth or have the bacteria enclosed in your wounds.
Getting sexually transmitted bacteria such as gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, and syphilis means you have to contact infected person to get it (through sex), although you are as good as getting it if you have infected blood or you are injected with it.
Other methods of getting bacteria infection are via water and food that we eat. Examples are typhoid (Salmonella Typhi) and Cholera. They can be found in infected stools, food and water. In most cases, this is how E-coli, typhoid and cholera get into a person.
Prevention: Always cook your food well. Wash your hands with water and soap after visiting toilets or handling earth. Wash fruits thoroughly before eating. Disinfect with simple food disinfectants. Bathroom/toilets should be spring clean and human, animal and plant wastes should be well disposed of. Live in a tidy environment. Ensure well ventilated living and home areas. Some infections can be vaccinated against. Example of this is TB (tuberculosis) and tetanus. But there is no substitute for good personal and environmental hygiene. Avoid overcrowding. Needless to say that, one way to prolong life is to have all forms of infection and wounds contained and treated very promptly. Have a trusted sexual partner and stick to the person.
c) Parasites: Malaria. Be wary of parasites causing such illness as malaria. Female mosquitoes transmit malaria when they bite the person to suck blood. In return they leave plasmodium parasite in our blood. To some extent, people living in places like Africa and Asia that have malaria problems are little protected (semi-immune) from the disease. That is illness in semi-immune persons may not be as deadly in the people as those from outside malarious zone such as in Europe and America. Except you are semi- immune or live in the area where malaria or mosquito is a daily contact, you will need a long and vigilant preventative measure to combat bites and prolong your life. Children and pregnant women are at higher risk of serious malaria and they need good protection too. For everyone who may come in contact with mosquitoes, you may require medications on daily or weekly basis to protect you against malaria. Window netting, use of suitable insecticides within the house and appropriate insecticide without the house, clean and clear drains are necessities as is general tidy environment with good ventilations are means of preventing this deadly disease. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you should be aware of peak exposure times and places. Carriers of malaria are most active in twilight periods (dawn and dusk) or in the evening after dark. Avoiding the outdoors or focusing preventive actions during peak hours may reduce risk. Wear appropriate clothing. You can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. Repellents or insecticides, such as permethrin, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection. Use Bed nets. When accommodations are not adequately screened or air conditioned, bed nets are essential to provide protection and to reduce discomfort caused by biting insects. If bed nets do not reach the floor, they should be tucked under mattresses. Bed nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid. Pre-treated, long-lasting bed nets can be purchased or nets can be treated after purchase. Nets treated with a pyrethroid insecticide will be effective for several months if they are not washed. Long-lasting pre-treated nets may be effective for much longer.
Insecticides and spatial repellents. An increasing array of products to be used as spatial repellents (containing active ingredients such as metofluthrin and allethrin) is becoming commercially available. These augment the aerosol insecticides (You can use “Raid” “Mobil” or other branded products), vaporizing mats, and mosquito coils that have been available for some time. Such products can help to clear rooms or areas of mosquitoes (spray aerosols) or repel mosquitoes from a circumscribed area (coils, spatial repellents). Insecticides and repellent products should always be used with caution, avoiding direct inhalation of spray or smoke.
Other Parasites: There are other parasites like guinea worms, intestinal worms, skin worms and urinary bladder worms such as Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia that can be prevented by clean drinkable water, clean food and hygienic environment and by taking precautions when operating in infected areas and water. Often these parasites including malaria are not contagious.
Please note that parasites and other infections may be transmitted to another person through blood transfusion.
Fungus such as thrush in the mouth or vagina and indeed athlete’s foot are opportunistic infections that take advantage of moist and humid environment. Like warts, it can be contacted where there are mass of people using same facilities such as swimming or bathroom areas.
Prevention: What has been advised above should be noted. In addition, de-worm yourself and your children as may be required from time to time. For fungus, it just must be cleared with anti-fungal medication.
For all forms of infection, please get medical attention as soon as you feel unwell or you believe you have contacted any of the germs and parasites.
There are many genetic diseases, some of which are yet to be discovered. However, at the current level of knowledge, you may not be able to remove your genetic disease if it’s already established in you but you are in position to prevent your disease from occurring in your children and forth-coming generations. Even at that, gene-therapy is making wave these days and giving hope to otherwise incurable diseases.
Examples of genetic diseases that you can prevent are: Down’s syndrome and in some families, cancer of the ovary, cancer of the breast, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, some forms of diabetic mellitus (inherited) some dementia to mention the common ones and a few. Just for completion, some diseases, such as Turners, intersex and other gender variations may have genetic origin.
Prevention: Get tested. The test may require little blood sample from you or just a sample of your saliva or scrape of your inner cheek. Work through your family genetic history before you marry or before you starting to have children. Know yourself too. What genetic diseases are you carrying without you knowing? Ask your doctor to carry out some genetic testing to discover your real you. You can plan your life and live healthy around some of these diseases.
There are many diseases that relates to the organs or the way our body works in general. Commonly, metabolic disease may be due to our lifestyle. The commonest example is diabetic mellitus (More later) which sadly like genetic disease can be inherited. Other examples of metabolic disease include liver cirrhosis which may be due to alcohol misuse or viral infection(Hepatitis A,B,C,D,E). Obesity is another form of metabolic illness. In a lot of ways, metabolic diseases may be made worse or minimised by the lifestyle you live such as substance misuse, alcohol misuse, overeating and lack of exercise.
Prevention: First know your family history. Get tested. Are you carrying any disease without you being aware? Lead a modest life-style: Exercise, your mind and body. Eat healthily.
Environmental Changes and Poisoning:
In the world today, we hear of global warming. There are illness and deaths from changes to our environment. Such changes do influence the health of human beings in an adverse way (such as pollution causing skin illnesses, respiratory illness such as asthma, food poisoning from industrial chemicals, and food poisoning from insecticides being used by farmers). Floods, earthquakes and mudslides may spread diseases such as cholera and typhoid when the sewage systems are affected.
Take the impact of the Sun on the skin for example. Excessive Sunrays may cause human illness such as dehydration in the short term and melanoma in the long term. To reduce the risk, take good care and protection against Sun radiation via sun shades, sun creams and do minimal exposure to sunlight. Watch carefully if there are any changes taking place in your birthmarks (such as colour changes, or if getting bigger).
On the other hands, chemicals from industrial pollution, chemicals to aid manufacturing and farming as well as products from vehicles, aircrafts, ships and home/domestic wastes are all discharged unto our environment. Some, if not all, pollute our foods and water. In turn, we eat and drink those food or drink the polluted water with some dire consequences. People could get poisoned if water and food are not properly treated. Skin rashes, breathing problems such as asthma, bronchitis, cancers of bladder and of lungs are some of the results of chemical pollution to our bodies.
Environmental pollution can also be from germs such as from viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites that are used industrially (See more under Infections).
Prevention: Very often the prevention starts from exerting pressure on governments and intergovernmental organizations to enact laws and execute proper guidance for farmers, factory owners and related industries. At individual level, the precaution under infection, as above suffices. Also, there is no substitute for good air, properly prepared food and water and avoiding overcrowding as well as paying prompt attention to our health if affected.
There are a lot that we could do to ward off some degenerative diseases. The key to it all is continuous and reasonable use of our body and brain even into old age. Example of degenerative diseases is dementia and arthritis.
Prevention: Suffice to say that, osteoarthritis may be helped by good nutrition and avoidance of certain foods or addition of certain foods that our doctors may advice. Good exercise, adequate rest, avoidance of obesity is highly recommended as preventive measures. In sum, good use of our brain and body in exercise will help prevent degenerative illnesses.
Cancers kill millions of people every year in every countries of the world and in all races. Some are due to genetic disorders such as the case in breast and ovarian cancers. Others are due to environmental influences such as mesothelioma (due to exposure to asbestos) and melanoma (in some cases, excessive influence of the Sun on the skin). Yet, some are due to infections such as cervical cancers, throat, and mouth cancers being caused by human papiloma virus (See Chapter on Cancers).
Many cancers are in fact due to our own habits such as what we eat (red meat are known to cause cancer of the colon) or what we do not eat (vegetable meals can prevent cancer of the colon). Cancers could also be as a result of social habits such as sexual (cancer of cervix, anus, throat, lips etc) and substance misuse habits. Such illness as cancer of the liver may be seen in alcoholic abusers or cancer of pancreas may develop from misuse of alcohol.
Prevention: Pay attention to your social habits including avoiding infections and avoiding cigarette smoking that clearly is linked to causing cancer of the lungs. Physical exercise helps to prevent cancers of the breast, bowel and many more. Taking simple precautions such as protection against excessive sunlight may help as well as good nutritional habits and good sleep. Track your genetic make-up and know your history so as to help you determine where you are heading.
Mental Health Disorders
In general, mental health incapacitates the sufferers and their families. Many infirmities and deaths are due to mental health illness such as depression and serious disorders such as of schizophrenia or mania. Death may be by suicide or homicide (murder). In some cases, the consequences of mental health may be self-harm or assault on other innocent persons. Mental health illness may be as a result of genetic impairment such as in some cases of mania, depression or schizophrenia. Diseases of the mind may also be due to our own social habits such as substance misuse (cocaine, cannabis, LSD, Speed, heroine, magic mushrooms etc). Yet, a person may break down because of life frustrations such as death in the family or friends demise. Mental illness may also develop due to personal illnesses (say cancers and long-standing diseases), loss of job, relationship issues, frustration of life ambitions, lack of achievements, financial difficulties or general frustrations about not understanding the dynamics of life.
Once again, there are social, genetic, family histories and life stressors that can best be avoided in order to escape mental health disorders. You only need to take note of what I have been mentioned above. Also, once again simple measures such as physical exercise, good sleep, good rest, knowing ones limit, and avoiding misuse of substances can go a long way to prevent mental health break downs. Deal with physical illness promptly. Do not delay in seeking medical help even for the faintest symptom or sign lest it develops into bigger problem.
Accidents, Negligence, Suicides, Self-Harms, Assaults and Murders
Poor health and death may occur due to the action of other persons around us or be due to the effect of decisions of economic and political leaderships at home or in public places. Personal vigilance is crucial in these cases. Death and assault on others or any harm on us or another person may be by our own fault or due to ongoing mental health issues or anger in us. Imagine if we are careless in driving our car or looking after our health or that of our children. Imagine if other drivers on the roads are less careful or they simply disobey the law. Simple offensive words may cause mental health problem or even assaults on us or against others.
Take due care always: at home and when you are away from home. Simply, be very careful. Be watchful against careless individuals. There is no alternative to good personal vigilance, obeying the laws, be kind to our own and to others around us as well , treating existing diseases in us: This may be mental or physical illness We owe it to our self to ventilate or resolve our life frustrations in a reasonable way. These simple measures can go a long way in helping our health.
Absence of Spiritual Health
Has it not been said that “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God?” Clinicians call this combination of spiritual needs with scientific healing methods: holistic medicine (meaning treating the whole person). You need credible religion to remain sane and healthy in an insane world. There are clear and well proven advantages of these combinations. You need to have meanings to this complex world; Absence of which can lead to confusion and self-denials.