A few months ago, while having a nice time with a long time friend, he told me something I found very profound because of its clarity: “Kay, by the time you are 50, the health problem that will kill you will be before you. How long you live thereafter will largely depend on how you manage it.”
Honestly, my friend is very correct! His grandfather was diabetic but died at the age of 96. His 94-year-old mother is asthmatic, but still going strong.
My friend’s statement is based on all things being equal: if you escape being slaughtered in Benue, Plateau and Southern part of Nigeria, if you escape the guns of cultists in Rivers, if you escape death in the hands of kidnappers in Edo, Delta, and Kogi States, if you escape death in the hands of “ritualists” in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and the Cross Rivers States; if you escape fatal accidents on the death traps we call roads or escape death in the mortuaries we call hospitals. But there are people whose health situations manifest earlier than 50 years; there are also people blessed with good health.
You hear some people 40 years and above say “I have not been ill in the last 20 years,” “I have not been to the hospital for 16 years,” I say thank God for your health, but you better go for a checkup!
When people are advised to go for medical checkups, they always think that they do not need one since, in their estimation, they are not sick. Yet, physicians say we do not need to wait until we are sick to get our physicals done, especially for people 40 years and above.
When it comes to health, do not assume anything. Once you are 40 years, annual medical check-up becomes a necessity.
Regular checkups can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances of living a longer, healthier life.
The checkups examinations recommended by medical practitioners include: Physical examination, visual examination, blood sugar level, Lipid profile, Liver function test, electrolyte, full blood count, urinalysis, prostate-specific antigen (men above 40 years), Chest x-ray (above 40 years), prostate scan (men above 50 years), ECG (those above 40 years), colonoscopy (men above 50 years), electrocardiogram (for those at a higher risk of heart disease), mammography (for women above 40 years and some other tests. Each of these procedures serves a particular purpose.
Chest x-ray, for instance, is meant to show the state of your lungs. Chest x-rays can detect heart-related lung problems, cancer, infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia or air collecting in the space around a lung, among others. The blood sugar level is for all persons 40 years and above, especially people from families where there is a history of diabetes. In fact, such persons should have been doing their checks long before 40 years.
Research has it that normal blood sugar level is between 70 and 99 fastings (that is when you wake up in the morning) and not more than 140 two hours after a meal at all times. Early detection of high blood sugar can help you stave off diabetes and the attendant complications. Happily, it is one of those tests you can do at home with your test kits. Like blood sugar, blood pressure can also be easily checked at home
According to experts, normal blood pressure is diastolic 80 and systolic 120. Once your systolic is 130 and above, you have high blood pressure. Of course, as people grow older, these figures can be higher and still be okay, but you must consult your doctor if you have blood pressure. Also watch out for symptoms like migraine. The consequences of BP are mostly devastating: stroke which leads to partial or total paralysis and death.
As you hit 40, you also need to adjust your lifestyle to stay healthy. This includes the kind and quantity of food you consume. In your younger days, your metabolism was higher and you could burn off carbohydrates, sugar, etc, easily. Not anymore. You need to cut down on quantity of food to reduce the work of your aging internal organs.
The common saying: “eat like a king in the morning, a prince in the afternoon and a pauper in the evening” might not apply to some people in their 50s and above. They simply obey their bodies and eat little and when is necessary.
Also, you have to be weary of the common saying that “you can never be wrong with fruits.” Unless you understand your body very well, you can go horribly wrong with fruits. People with diabetic tendencies cannot consume “sweet” fruits like bananas, oranges, pineapple, etc., in large volumes. It is either strict moderation or total abstinence. You also need to know what goes well with your body. Some people are allergic to certain fruits.
The question is, can people with diabetes eat fruit?
“For people with diabetes, a crucial part of managing their condition is their diet, and they often need to plan their meals. They may need to monitor the amount of sugar in their diet, or avoid eating too many carbohydrates.
Fruit contains carbohydrates and sugars. A person with diabetes may want to check these amounts when putting together a meal plan.
As well as sugars and carbohydrates, the fruit is high in fiber. Foods that contain fiber take longer to digest, so they raise blood sugar more slowly than those with less fiber.
Foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. Some foods raise these levels more than others.
Some people use the glycemic index (GI) to plan their diet. GI is a measure of how much a particular food raises a person’s blood glucose. Foods with a low GI raise blood glucose less than foods with a high GI.
Most fruits are low GI, but some, such as melons and pineapple, are high GI. Processing food increases its GI, so fruit juice has a higher GI than a whole piece of fruit. Ripe fruit has a higher GI than unripe fruit.
Combining a fruit that has a high GI with low GI foods can make it a healthier choice. An example of this might be, slicing a ripe banana and having it on top of whole-grain toast for breakfast.
Dried fruit, fruit juice, and certain tropical fruits, such as mangoes, are higher in sugar. A person may choose to eat a small portion or avoid having these too regularly.
Eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, which can lead to higher blood sugar levels, or prediabetes. These are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Fruit contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber, so it is a key part of a healthful diet. Choosing fresh fruit rather than dried fruit, and limiting the intake of fruit juice or smoothies, can help reduce sugar intake.”
In your younger days, sports and exercise was fun and recreation. Once you hit 40, exercising becomes a matter of life and death. For many people, it is no longer fun, because of aching joints and aging internal organs, but you must do exercise or perish slowly. You should understand the whole essence of exercise at this age: keep healthy, give a reasonably good account of yourself in the other room (for men) and shed some weight, if possible. Building muscles should not be a priority of men 40 years and above. Who are you trying to impress? Your wife of 20 years who is more interested in financial muscles that can give her financial security over time? That is why people above 40 years are advised to walk briskly (not jog) about 30 minutes every day.
Beyond your physician, let your personal doctor, your body, be your guide before you slump and die prematurely.
When I went to the National Stadium in Lagos, I saw some sexagenarians and septuagenarians jogging, while people in their 30s are walking. It is partly because of the instructions from their bodies. Some of those old men jogging have been doing it religiously for over 40 years. Yes, you need regular exercise, but please listen to your bodies.
Many young people in their 40s and 50s are dropping dead with alarming rapidity. Do not swell the number because of your carelessness or negligence.