We are eating ourselves to death

Editorial

IT is easy to feel negative as the clouds of doom and gloom grow around the epidemic of lifestyle diseases sweeping the planet.
But like all clouds, these have silver linings. After all, lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, are so-called precisely because they are not bolts out of a healthy blue.
Lifestyle diseases are ailments that are primarily based on the day to day habits of people.
Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cancers of the digestive tract, the liver and lungs as well as the ailments of the heart are on the rise in Papua Nedw Guinea.
These diseases are robbing the country of many of its productive workers between the ages of 35 and 50.
For a fledgling economy such as PNG, that cannot be good news because it means more and more of our brightest and best talents are succumbing to preventable diseases and, thus, leaving voids in experience and quality in the nation’s educated and skilled workforce.
Almost every week, it seems, one will find in the obituaries column of the newspapers a death notice of a senior professional or some other middle management personnel who had died at what many in the first world would consider middle aged or younger.
Deaths, attributable to lifestyle diseases, of individuals barely in their 50s in cities and rural areas are becoming so common that one would assume that the country’s life expectancy has surely taken a dip since independence.
In fact, one would hasten to think that the generation of leaders that ushered PNG to independence in the mid-1970s will probably outlive the generation that followed them.
Sir Michael Somare, Sir Paulias Matane, Sir Julius Chan, John Momis, Sir Pita Lus and men of that ilk are surprisingly still active and relatively able-bodied despite their advanced years.
The consumption of unhealthy foods, coupled with mostly sedentary jobs, has no doubt contributed to mortality rates in certain age groups.
What has also been a major factor in the poor state of affairs in public health has been the blase attitude many Papua New Guineans have to healthy living.
The amount of harmful fats (cholesterol and trans fats), sugars and poor quality protein and carbohydrates consumed on a daily basis is truly mind-blowing.
The big question here is: Are Papua New Guineans aware that how they live their lives every day including what they eat, what they put into their bodies (smoking and drinking) and whether they exercise directly impacts their health, not just in the short term of a week or month or year but how they fare later in life?
Is there enough education and emphasis on protecting and preserving quality of life by investing in proper and proven habits like eating foods high in nutrients, complex carbs, proteins and the other trace minerals necessary for a healthy body and, in turn, a better and longer life?
Eliminating or, at the very least, cutting back on processed food is a huge factor in living healthier lives.
Going back to village foods such as kaukau, yams, taro, vegetables and fish would seem an easy alternative for many in our urban areas and should be the mantra for a new and healthier PNG. If it worked for our grandfathers, why not for us?
Physical activity may not always be a joy for many, especially in the regimented life of a city, but fewer and fewer people are maintaining a recreational pursuit in their middle age as a way to keep fit and trim.
Mostly we are seeing our office workers content to sit some more at home after sitting all day at work. This must change as we need to take better care of ourselves if we are to grow with the country.

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