Health Corner 3 - Knowing more about Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

The four main NCDs are: Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Lung Diseases. The NCD rates are higher and rising among lower income countries and populations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Chronic Respiratory Diseases (CRD) as chronic diseases of the airways and other structures of the lung. The most common are: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occupational lung diseases and pulmonary hypertension.
These diseases have a high morbidity rate, as well as disability and premature mortality, specifically asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Risk factors include: tobacco smoke (either active smoking or secondhand smoke), air pollution, occupational chemicals and dusts, and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood.
CRDs are not curable; however many cases of COPD are preventable by avoiding or stopping smoking.Treatment can relieve symptoms, improve quality of life and reduce the risk of death.
According to the latest WHO estimates (2004):
64 million people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
More than 3 million people die each year from COPDs, an estimated 6% of all deaths worldwide.
More than 90% of COPD deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.
235 million people suffer from asthma, a common disease among children.

From the perspective of Integrative Medicine, if we consider the element air in this topic, we could say that air marks the start and end of our life, since the first breathing allows us to live and the last one takes us to death. We all share the air with humans and other species.
The air is related to breathing. Breathing is the beat of the Universe. We inhale and exhale as the Universe expands and contracts. Breathing connects us with the universe.
If you want to try an exercise to breathe like a person with COPD does, take a straw, close your lips around it, pinch your nose and breath only through the straw in your mouth… inhale… and exhale... inhale… and exhale… You have the privilege to take the straw away and breath in and out to all your healthy lung capacity; 64 million of people in the world cannot.
How can I prevent, or help my family prevent, Chronic Respiratory Disease? Let’s review the risks factors:
Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer*. If you are a current smoker, find the support needed to stop smoking. According to the CDC, the only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places. We are responsible to reinforce the law and make those spaces clean.
Air pollution: indoor air pollution, resulting from solid fuel used for cooking and heating and outdoor air pollution. Maintain ventilated spaces, avoid smoke from cooking or wearing a mask if you can’t avoid them. Plant trees that will help the environment.
Occupational chemicals and dust: people working in these conditions should wear special protection.
Avoid Frequent respiratory infections during childhood: Having a good immune system as a result of a healthy lifestyle will help prevent and fight respiratory diseases at any age, especially during early years.

Mabel Loján, MD


Integrative Medicine
*: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2017 Oct 18]).

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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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