Solutions for Africa’s silent killers (2)
We continue now with the final and concluding part of our African silent killer conditions series with a focus on more practical solutions to the scourge.
We begin with Atherosclerosis. Just like hypertension, atherosclerosis is also accumulative as it takes years of fat and adipose to build up inside and outside the blood vessels. Atherosclerosis solutions are therefore directly related to hypertension. All the hypertension solutions referred to in the previous section are therefore also applicable to atherosclerosis.
It also makes sense to think outside the box before adding one or more hypertension medications. If one blood pressure medication isn’t addressing your hypertension, considering the other silent killer conditions tributaries like atherosclerosis and obesity interventions should be the next step. Hypertension medications are not designed for hypercholesterol. Hypercholesterol is also hyperlipidemia and more aligned with atherosclerosis than hypertension; but carries as much punch when it comes to fighting hypertension. Simply put; hypertension, atherosclerosis and overweight or obesity are the three amigos, one for all, all for one.
So if you have hypertension and you are obese; you also might have high or bad cholesterol as well. You might want to have a one to chat with your doctor to consider cholesterol medication intervention before starting on second or third Blood Pressure medications. One other practical way to address atherosclerosis is cutting down on daily or weekly fat intake – oil and fatty food. For example, cooking stew without oil is not just healthy but tastes better too. Baking or pre-cooking your meat or fish in oven to allow unwanted fat and cholesterol to drip out for 10-15minutes at 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit before applying the meat or fish to soup or stew cuts down 30-50% of unwanted fat and bad cholesterol in the fish or meat. In fact this pre-cooked or baked meat and fish tastes better too – like suya (shish kebab) in the stew or soup. If the above recommendations are too drastic, you might consider alternating the above recommendations with old cooking practices until actual measurable benefits come to fruition. Furthermore; reducing current cooking oil by 10-20% is a moderation practice that will go a long way in addressing this condition.
Another practical solution to atherosclerosis is processed, purified and clean water hydration especially in warmer days during physical activities that maintain blood flow patency and promotes homeostasis. More fresh fruit intake, less pop and soda will keep blood vessels patent and blood flow regular. All the above recommendations can be related to overweight and obesity complications too. Other factors to curtail this condition are reducing or quitting alcohol consumption, smoking, and managing diabetes mellitus and other co-morbidity situations.
Balanced diet has different meanings and connotations to different people. An average daily African diet from some parts of Nigeria goes like this: breakfast (fast-yam/plantain with pepper soup with fish/meat), lunch (eba/foofoo/pounded yam and egusi or ogbolor soup with meat/stock fish), and dinner (rice and stew-chicken and fried sweet plantain). For people not familiar with the above, yam/plantain, eba/foofoo/pounded yam and rice and plantain are all heavy (secondary and tertiary) carbohydrates. From the above meal types, this person’s daily consumption is approximately 40-60% carbohydrate, 10-15% protein, 15-20% fat, 5-10% fiber, fruits and vegetable. This is the affordable average daily African diet compared to western diet standards. The concept of western balanced diet largely then only works for westerners and not Africans. Appropriate ratios of carbohydrate to protein, to fat, to vegetables, fiber and fruit are not attainable to poorer and underprivileged westerners, mot to talk about Africans or people from other Third World countries. In fact most Africans and other people from Third World countries barely survive on what they can afford and balanced diet is therefore not on their radar.
One option to addressing the issue of too much carbohydrate in an average daily Africa meal is to skip carbohydrates in every other meal; supplanted by protein, fruits and vegetables. If the above recommendation is too drastic; then cutting down on current carbohydrate meal portion by 10-20% consistently can only lead to positive overall outcomes. Making fiber 10-15% of your meal all the time significantly reduces cholesterol. In fact some studies have established that twice daily fiber intake is almost as effective as taking cholesterol medications. The American Heart Association approves and certifies that daily cereal fiber intake is a good and healthy choice to counter the cholesterol challenge.
So once again moderation is a practice that can yield positive healthy results over time. Imagine if Africans and African descendants can consistently cut down by 5-10% from 40-60% average daily carbohydrate intake, increase average daily protein intake to 20-25%, reduce average daily fat intake to 10-15% and up average daily fruits and vegetables intake to 20%; the correlation would be increased lifespan, increased/more stable metabolism, less severe health disease/conditions and a better future for all and future generations. Cutting down average African daily carbohydrate intake from 40-60% to 30-40% will reflect and translate significant weight loss if practiced over a certain period by overweight and obese individuals. The excess carbohydrate calories intake won’t be converted into fat and adipose. Likewise increasing protein to 20-25% will benefit good health, good immunity and increased body metabolism – which help to curtail overweight and obesity. At the end of the day; the key to fighting overweight and subsequent obesity is simply not getting overweight. We all live busy lives and most of us don’t check our weight until an illness breaks or during physician appointments. At this point, it’s almost already too late because we have accumulated the weight or obesity. Hence prevention and diet moderation practices comes handy, weighing yourself, at least weekly, should be the new standard going forward. Most weight scales last 5-10years and cost $40-60, with very little maintenance required. African government can and should invest in a gymnastics or athletic (recreational) center-like programme with weight scales and classes for each community (villages, towns, cities). Well-to-do citizens can advance these programmes by creating sub-communities weight and gymnastics recreation competitions which will inspire participation and expedite overall progress towards combating overweight, obesity and silent killer diseases. Others can and should partner with current governmental entities to further this satellite weight and gymnastics-like recreation centers and use parts of maybe government properties like schools, clinics and other government buildings to cover more grounds.
While westerners debate proper and balanced diet, underprivileged societies struggle with food rations and portions daily. A simple way to moderate average caloric daily intake is take out 5-10% of your meal before consumption. You might substitute the 5-10% with more fruit/vegetables for each meal. If you rigorously practice and own this new habitual and cognitive behavior modality; coincidentally you would have consume 9000-15000 less calories per month if you are honest with yourself. Subsequent benefits from the above are weight loss, less fat to adipose conversion, increased metabolism, increased energy and increased self esteem.
Overweight and obesity vs. food portion
The majority of African kids are disciplined for wasting food or not finishing their food. This old mentality has to STOP, as it has no benefit whatsoever. Wasting food or not finishing food might be a sign of disrespect but it also fosters healthy satiety cognitive-habitual practices. It took me about 3-6years to stop telling my kid not to waste food like my parents had told me. Without blaming my parents, I now realize all my parent were doing back then was making me consume more calories than my body demanded, and subsequently slowing down my metabolism. It was as if the above mentality is ingrained in our DNA; passed on from generation to generation. My education in medical science empowered me to break this cycle and hopefully my kids will not make my grandkids finish their food if they don’t want to. I empowered my older son at 12-14 to start making his favorite Mac and cheese with supervision. He then perfected and owned it and his two younger siblings prefers his Mac and cheese to mine. Of course I never negotiated on fruits and vegetables with my kids: we compromised on the need to keep finding ways to improve fruits and vegetables flavour.
The Water factor
When we talk about water’s effect on these silent killer conditions, by now everyone comprehend it isn’t just water, it is clean, processed, purified, regular and consistent water supplies. Africa’s rain, river, well and majority unprocessed water resources only compounds this condition over time. One established model to use to address this condition is what I have termed the SOCKS model. This model is simple; American sock producing and large retail companies have a philanthropy programme where when Americans buys certain amount of socks like buy 2 or 3 pairs of socks, the producing or large retail companies donate a pair of socks to underprivileged communities inside and outside America. Imagine if we do something similar with water; like Sam’s club, Costco, Wal-Mart, Kroger. An average case of water from these stores has 24-40 bottles, each bottle contains 500cc or more of processed, purified water for total case content of 1200-20000cc of water per case. African population is trending 1.4 billion, if one African requires 2000-4000cc of purified. processed water daily; take into account only 25% of the 1.4billion gets some form of processed and purified water daily. About 1billion still needs a minimum of 2000cc of processed and purified water daily which now equates to 50000 to 60000 cases of the above processed and purified water. This amount can bridge Africa’s processed and purified water demand until more direct and permanent processed and purified water solution becomes available in Africa. Subsequently, it also has to be noted that the above remedy will not really be eco-friendly (too much plastic). To address this, maybe water cases could be converted into biodegradable gallon containers instead.
One distinction to emphasize is that boiling rain, river and well water is not the same as using processed and purified water. Yes; you killed some microbes but impurities remain and impurities clog vessels. More river and ocean water desalination plants are needed to consistently and regularly provide needed processed and purified water. Cultivating halophyte plants like mangrove, blanket flowers, day lily, barley, rice, cane sugar, rye, wheat and soybeans along coast of African countries can help to reduce cost of river/sea water desalination programs. Use of wells, aquifers and other soft water sources to irrigate farm or vegetative lands are counterproductive, waste of valuable resources and poor governance practices.
One possible rationale why Africans leaving in western countries like the USA, after visiting their homeland end up with abdominal problem like abdominal cramping, diarrhea and possible dysentery within 2-4days of arrival; is probably related to unprocessed, unpurified water consumption. Water bottle standards in African countries are not the same like in western countries.
Every coastal African country should have a programme I refer to as the River Nile canal project. For centuries and millennia, Egyptians had dredged channels or canals from the Nile river to inland farming communities to sustain agricultural development-demand and supplies. This practice is badly needed now to maximize African wells, underground and aquifer soft water. The hard water from rivers and oceans can be directly used for agricultural, farmland and other non-human water consumption requirement. We should look to western health standards as a basis to do better, though every standard has flaws and limits; hence standards should be re-evaluated and enhanced periodically. Western standards are not perfect, their flaws and limits reflect why majority of American struggle with obesity. American obesity fight is reactive cure rather than preventative health science practices to the benefits of pharmaceuticals and corporate America.
All the above suggestions and recommendations are only going to be possible if Africans and African descendants take charge and do not wait for miracles from the west, or from our inept governments and definitely not manna from heaven. We can make our own miracles by owning these silent killer conditions, learn from the past, make changes now and plan ahead for the future. I once had data collected on a small scale from several African countries. The data were irregular, inconsistent and occasionally incomplete. At the end, the data I received were for 56-100 individuals. The cost of the data program was $400-600 in each country annually. Unfortunately I had to stop this programme within 2-3 years for lack of reliable data collection. I now sincerely regret this and plan to resume data collection again once the Covid-19 dust settles. The reason for the pending resumption is simple; any data is better than no data. If others like me care to buy into such data collection programmes and follow through with it, they will help to gather more data and contribute to the database. An expanded database analysis will present better comprehensive facts and patterns to our inept governments, the UN, WHO and other well-funded establishment to warrant further review to the benefit humanity.
At the end of the day, the solution to these silent killer diseases is as simple as A B C: prevention is better than cure. If African citizens, African descendants and their respective governments come together as a unit and work together; all must acknowledge this is an overdue condition that warrants urgent attention immediately. They must note their strength and weaknesses and align together for the overall good of our future generations. I implore reasonable Africans and African descendants with means to start investing into projects like AYENOH and the River Nile model immediately until better and responsible governance comes into fruition. If we collect enough quality data, we can use the analysis from the data as ammunition and leverage to nudge governments and the rest of the world, including WHO and UNICEF to open up and mobilize further changes.