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Striving To Stay Healthy In The 21st Century


Several things in our lives continue to erode our savings and even deplete our pension plans.  One of the most significant is our health.  You can often hear young people run jokes about the older generation while they run about showing off their new parts, hearts, lungs, brains etc.  Unlike our forefathers who grew up on cow’s milk, homegrown chicken and beef, and ground provisions, the presentation of food today creates a lot of health challenges in the young and the old.  Are supplements just for old people? At what age should anyone be taking supplements?  Are they in the form that the body can benefit from them?  There is a lot of literature out there about what the recommended daily allowance (RDA) amounts are, hence the need to be in communication with your family doctor.

Unfortunately, in the effort to feed the world’s population, technology has been engaged and experimental food is high on the menu.  Also, we have embraced connectivity with the world to the point where social media governs most of our day.  Sleep is not high on our priority list as we try to keep pace with our surroundings.  Soul, mind and body now seem like a dying memory while we choose whether food is our medicine or our poison.  Parents watch their children suffer from illnesses that are rare and far between.  Their ability to focus on their lesson, build strong bones and muscles and maintain healthy body weight is becoming more challenging.

An unhealthy society can never be as productive as one that makes a conscious effort to remain healthy.  Our NHI scheme is under strain and as a community, we must make a conscious effort to turn this around.  The BVI has been talking about cafeterias in schools for years.  In 2011, the programme was short-lived at Elmore Stoutt High School.  In 2019, parents were complaining about the high prices and quality of the lunches provided.  It reached a point where parents were leaving work to bring lunches for the children.  The selling of cooked food is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the BVI.  The choices are there in terms of healthy and unhealthy food, and some vendors are available up until midnight.  How can we turn this around for a small country such as ours to ensure that we are not dealing with an unhealthy population by 2030?

Home economics has been in our schools for over 30 years and Virgin Islands School of Technical Studies also has this subject as part of their curriculum.  How do we inspire healthy choices in food?  During science projects, our children have learned about the different nutrients and plate sizes for a balanced diet.  But how do we effectively show our children things that give them some idea if their system is functioning properly? We have learnt about the length of our intestines and the importance of getting rid of toxins sitting within our system for a long period.  Strong bones and teeth are required as the BVI continue to make strides in the sporting world internationally.  Even as we grab and go how can we ensure that we are consuming foods low in added sugars, saturated fats and sodium? The Nutrition Facts label is not just for adults trying to stave off diabetes.

Sample Nutrition Facts label for frozen lasagna.
Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration External link

Salts and electrolytes are lost when an individual is active for long periods playing sports or working out.  These salts and electrolytes must be replaced for proper functioning of the muscle and your coach and health care professionals can give guidance.  As a youngster we should openly critique the drink/food that our favourite celebrity is promoting, ensuring that they are not high-fat foods or sugary beverages.  Prepping food together as a family means mom and dad are involved and can reinforce healthy meal choices.  It might be a good idea to buy smaller meal plates to reinforce small portion sizes. We are programmed to eat breakfast, and then lunchtime and dinner. Snacking should be minimized; we should train ourselves to eat only when hungry.

Are you a couch potato:  since you completed Physical Education in high school, what type of exercise or physical activity has become part of your daily life?  Our cars have become our worst enemy.  On weekends when you come into town, try parking by the festival ground and walk to nearby shopping areas to complete your shopping chores.  Our teens may need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.  Is there any way for parents to reduce children’s on-screen time with their computers, iPads and phones without them going into withdrawal like addicts do?  Screen time should be less than 2 hours each day, not counting time spent doing homework or at work.  Dancing is always a fun way to stay active. Look for dance and other fitness and exercise videos at your local library, online on social media, or on some television channels.  Alternatively, check out active sports games. Fitness apps can be downloaded onto your smart phone or mobile device which can help you keep track of how active you are each day.

Sometimes it’s hard to get enough sleep with a fast-paced life, but it is crucial to assist the body in functioning properly.  Maybe it’s time to turn down the brightness in your room one hour before bedtime, by retiring your TV or smartphone.  Having a set bedtime is not just for small children, it can help you all through your lifetime.

Anything that is habit-forming requires time for changes to take effect, so be gentle with yourself. Make sure your weight loss goal is realistic.  If you can’t do it alone, a walking or exercise buddy can help.

www.dietaryguidelines.gov External link
https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/physical-activity-guidelines/current-guidelines External link