Health Corner 2 - What can we do about non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?

Have you heard about NCD? NCD stands for Non-Communicable Diseases, which means it is not caused by something infectious and is not-infectious.
In my perspective, NCDs are not only non-transmissible but are also preventable.
NCD is a group of diseases that because of their characteristics, are chronic with a slow progression and most of them can cause “sudden” deaths or affect the quality of life of the sick person.
Some of the diseases under the NCD umbrella are: Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Chronic Lung Disease.
The concern surrounding NCDs is that these diseases are the leading causes of death and disease burden worldwide. It is estimated that more than 30 million of annual deaths are due to NCDs.
Micronesia and the Pacific Region are not exceptions. The data has placed the Region in “an NCD Crisis”. Forum leaders have recognized the situation as a ‘human, social and economic crisis requiring an urgent and comprehensive response’.
WHO surveys show that three out of every four deaths in the region are NCD related and the Pacific has some of the highest rates of these diseases and their causes in the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) performed a survey in Pohnpei. The 2008 report showed some information on the risk factors related to NCDs.
According to the WHO, a risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Some risks factors can be modifiable, like habits or exposures. Other risk factors like age or gender cannot be modified.
Risks factors for NCDs are all those habits that increase the chances to develop Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular (Heart) and Lung Disease. Some of them are: high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol consumption, betel nut chewing, low or lack of physical activity, being overweight or obese, non healthy eating (the survey used number of servings of vegetables and fruits).
Some of the important results of the 2008 WHO survey in Pohnpei are:
25% of the population smoked tobacco daily,
26.9% of population chewed betel nuts daily,
35.1% of men drank an average of 5 or more standard drinks per day in the past week,
68.9% of the population consumed sake (kava),
81.8% of the population consumed less than five combined servings of fruit and vegetables per day,
64.3% of the population had a low level of physical activity,
73.1% of the population was overweight, 42.6% were obese,
32.1% of the population was diabetic.

What do these numbers mean? In terms of lifestyle, we can improve in order to prevent deaths in our families.
If we go back to the concept of the lost balance that causes the illness and we apply it to NCDs, keeping in mind that there are known risks factors for this group of diseases, the crisis can be managed by stopping the risk factors We start new protection factors or healthy habits.
One in every three people in Pohnpei is Diabetic. Diabetes is one of the NCDs that is affecting the quality of life of our families and friends.
Every day we can choose to have healthy habits. Every meal can be feeding NCDs or fighting them. We all can start changing these figures and make Micronesia not only a paradise to live in but also a healthy country.
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine

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Letter to the Editor: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

This week, almost 60 people who went to Las Vegas to enjoy a concert will never return home to see their families. Their lives, their hopes, and their dreams will stay in Vegas forever, while hundreds more undergo intensive surgeries at local hospitals, all because one man was able to amass a military grade stockpile of deadly weapons that have no other use apart from killing large numbers of living things from a distance at high speed. The gunman’s twisted spirit will also remain in Vegas, in the heart of a state that says private citizens have a “natural right” to own the same firepower trained soldiers use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it’s not just Vegas. It’s Sandy Hook too, and San Bernardino, and Orlando, and Aurora, and Charleston, and Columbine, and the list goes on. And already we’re back to the same stale routine of arguing whether more guns, or fewer guns, would prevent these atrocities. This, as we ignore the basic truth that this mostly seems to happen in America, the land of the spree, and home of the grave.
There are a lot more graves today. Some of those graves have old bodies. Some have young bodies. Some have white bodies. Some have brown bodies. Some have women. Some have men. But they all share one thing in common: if America had the same gun laws as Australia, England, Germany, Canada, Cuba, Israel, Japan, Egypt, or the island nations of the South Pacific, or the FSM in the North Pacific, they would all be alive today, and the only thing to stay in Vegas would’ve been their hard-earned money, pumped quarter by quarter into flashy slot machines.
I believe Americans are exceptional in many things, but probably none more so than our continued willingness to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of a few lines of text that probably never should have made it into the Constitution to begin with.
Liam Cummings
(Editor’s note: Liam Cummings was visiting Pohnpei from the United States when the news of yet another horrendous mass murder by firearms in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” arrived.

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Health Corner 1

SEP 30, 2017

Welcome to the Health Corner.
As a visitor in Pohnpei I have had the opportunity to learn some things about Micronesian identity and history. As a Doctor, I think it is essential to have those facets in mind when doing health services.
I am an Integrative Medicine (IM) practitioner and would like to share with you some thoughts and information. I hope that you’ll find it useful.
Integrative Medicine is based on looking at person as a whole, influenced by physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental factors.
When I think of health, I think of identity. Understanding who I am, where I come from, and the story of each; identifying us each by name, a nationality, and purpose in life. Knowing who I am, accepting who I am not, being aware of my potential, and having a meaningful life are all elements of good health.
Integrative Medicine unites western and traditional medicine and other practices as complementary parts of a unique strategy for each individual. The human being is permanently nourishing his body and senses, so IM considers nutrition essential. Diseases can be the result of an imbalanced nutrition on three cases: having excess, deficit or having a poor quality of nutrients. Nutrients can be food or sensorial stimuli: sound, sight, touch, smell, taste.
If we consider sickness as an imbalance or loss of identity; the cure is to restore the balance by gaining wholeness, self-sufficiency and freewill.
In the healthcare system there are many people involved, however you are the only person responsible for your health. The process of healing starts with the awareness of being sick and the understanding of what the illness is and where it really comes from.
Diseases can be an opportunity not only to restore a lost function in your body, to heal a sick cell, or to prevent further damage. Sometimes it can change your entire family’s behavior. For example, a family who deals with a father who is diagnosed with mouth cancer is forever changed. If it is an early diagnosis and everything goes well, the sick father may have the malignant tumor removed, he could stop the habit that caused the cancer (beetle nut chewing, for example) and the family might start practicing healthy life habits; local and diverse food, food free of preservatives and right portions, regular workouts, and the elimination of risk factors (beetle nut, alcohol, tobacco). This cancer has impacted a whole family to become healthier.
How are we connected to any sick person in FSM, or in another country? Humanity is all connected. The same way our heart cells are connected to the liver cells. Micronesians, Americans, Ecuadorians, and all nationalities are connected beings on Planet Earth.
Our Planet is sick. The most recent symptoms of our sickness on Planet Earth are the hurricanes affecting Central and North America. What are the symptoms in FSM? Fishermen and divers are experiencing the changes to our ocean.
How is the health of human beings related to this? Health is about wholeness, communion, harmony, cleanliness and balance not only inside our bodies, but also our personal relationships, our spiritual life and our interaction with nature and life in general.
A healthy cell can function properly. A healthy organ will function better. A healthy body can maintain basic functions, and the energy to be happy. A happy person is able to contribute to a better planet.
Next time I’ll write about Non Communicable Diseases (NCD).
Mabel Loján, MD
Integrative Medicine

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