heard an unforgettable statistic about Trinidad several years back. That
the one or two mile area of St James had one of the highest incidence of
death from heart disease in the world. It hits me periodically - when a
young man drops dead of a heart attack while exercising, when a woman in
her 40s suffers from angina attacks, when you hear of a doctor telling
someone who clearly can’t afford the $150,000 dollar triple bypass heart
surgery, “take it easy, don’t walk too fast”.
too deep and we could argue about the science of statistics, how numbers
can be manipulated, but that would be beside the point.
point is that heart disease has always been the Aids of this country – a
lifestyle disease, spreading like bush fire, a silent killer leading to
hundreds of quiet burials.
associate it with middle aged or elderly men who are to put it bluntly,
fat – just like we associate HIV/Aids with homosexuality.
fact is just as HIV/Aids now affects more women and children than men
worldwide, heart disease is an equal opportunity disease, attacking women
sometimes more fatally than men, since women rarely survive a heart
you consider a random sampling of employees the office where I work in
Port of Spain you would believe that almost all of us are steadily
munching our way towards our first heart attack. On the suggestion of
their employer, eight office workers between the ages of 25-40 took a
blood test called a "lipoprotein profile" to check their
out of the five women tested, ranging between the ages of 28 to 39 had
high cholesterol ranging from 200-239. Two out of the three men tested
also had high cholesterol. Only two out of eight people had desirable
levels of under 200.
the mess we are in if these numbers are reflected in offices and homes
throughout our country.
doctor will tell you high blood cholesterol is one of the major risk
factors for heart disease. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol
level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a
heart attack. In the US heart disease is the number one killer of women
and men. Each year, more than a million Americans have heart attacks, and
about a half million people die from heart disease. If we watched our
statistics as closely as we ought to I am pretty sure that with diabetes
and Aids as runners-up, heart disease is the number one killer in this
asked the 29 year old with a blood cholesterol of an unacceptable 210 what
she ate. “Nothing”, she swore “just a little food”.
That “food” on examination turned out to be all the stuff that
raises cholesterol, hardens arteries, and leads to a fatal heart attack.
It was thickly buttered bread, coconut bake made with butter and sugar,
sweet drinks, frequent treats of KFC, fries, roti, fried vegetables,
cookies, packets of processed snacks, sweets swimming in fatty oils.
Another person was partial to pork and cake and ice-cream. One of the
young men – only 39 years old, a non smoker and compulsive exercise
fanatic was surprised to discover that his cholesterol was as high as 240,
already in the danger zone. He is particularly at risk as he comes from a
family where men develop the disease in their late 30s. A diet high in fat
will take him over the edge easily.
daily diet is poison. We may as well drink gramaxone and put a quick end
to ourselves rather than subject ourselves to a slow and torturous build
up to a traumatic end, to a health system that cannot fix us unless we
cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars, to half a life. We are all at
may understand cholesterol. I think it needs repetition, simplification.
Here's the deal on cholesterol, how it makes the silent bomb waiting to
explode in our bodies.
there is too much cholesterol (a fat-like substance created mostly from
fatty foods) in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries.
Over time, this build-up causes "hardening of the arteries" so
that arteries become narrowed and blood flow to the heart is slowed down
or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if enough blood and
oxygen cannot reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood
supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the
result is a heart attack.
blood cholesterol itself does not have symptoms, so many people are
unaware that their cholesterol level is too high and doctors say that
everyone from the age of 20 should have their cholesterol measured at
least once every 5 years. This blood test is done after a 9 to 12 hour
fast and gives information about your total cholesterol, LDL (bad)
cholesterol - the main source of cholesterol build-up and blockage in the
arteries; and HDL (good) cholesterol, which helps keep cholesterol from
building up in the arteries. Hopefully the first thing you’ll do after
reading this piece is speak to your doctor and hit the lab to get your
cholesterol levels checked out. Odds are, if you eat a “normal” Trini
diet, man or woman, young or old your cholesterol is too high. If you’re
overweight, smoke, are post menopausal or over 45, or if you’re a man,
your risk factor shoots up.
HIV/Aids, Heart disease is preventable.
Like HIV/Aids, it leaves behind grieving children, parents,
siblings. It shatters lives. Countries lose productivity, already
stretched health systems buckle under its needless weight.
charge. Drop your cholesterol.
chicken, pizza, the cheesy, buttery, meat packed meals from well known
eating places, are all out. The only milk that you should be drinking is
skimmed milk (children do not need fat from milk). No full cream cheeses,
no butter. Acceptable meats include chicken or turkey (without the skin)
and fish (no shrimp). No lard, no more than a teaspoon of oil to cook any
meal (buy a non stick pan instead), No pholourie, no chips, macaroni pie
once a month, no processed meats (sausages or bacon). No packs of chips
(for you or the children) no cookies, no buttered popcorn.
addition to eating healthy, look at the size of the portions. The rule is
eat half of what you normally eat, then wait for 20 minutes (that’s how
long it takes for the signals to get from your stomach to your brain) and
then decide if you want more.
lard with olive, soybean or canola oil.
Think callallo, bodi, cauliflower, broccoli; think roast chickens,
grilled fish; think peas, beans, channa, dhal. And if you are longing for
sweets there’s fruit, low fat yoghurt, fresh fruit juices. All of these
are packed with nutrients to strengthen your immune system and make you
be a statistic. Take charge. Drop that cholesterol.