WE are relieved to know that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is back home and resting comfortably following a successful surgical procedure on his heart on Saturday. From all accounts the minimally invasive coronary angioplasty went well in dealing with a clogged artery which he had publicly disclosed two years ago. We look forward to him returning to the job with a clean bill of health.
For the rest of the country, Dr Rowley’s brush with a heart attack should be a wake-up call to the fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death with 25 percent of all deaths attributable to it. This is a stunning statistic which should be incorporated into our lifestyles from childhood.
While, on the face of it Dr Rowley does not appear to be an obvious candidate given his lean physique and dedication to exercise, for many others the signs are painfully evident. Obesity is at an epidemic level in T&T due to a lack of exercise and a love for high-calorie meals built on fried and fatty dishes, fast food, sweets and alcohol and the addiction to smoking. A silent cause of heart disease is high blood pressure which is also a lifestyle disease fuelled by excess salt, alcohol, lack of physical activity, obesity and stress. Genetics can also play a role.
With Covid-19 restricting movement extra effort is required to get ourselves and our families onto a healthier track. There is a real risk of the Covid-19 pandemic leaving the world more afflicted by lifestyle diseases. Among the fall-outs already being reported from Covid-19 are binge eating, higher consumption of alcohol and lack of exercise. Mental illness with its own complications is also on the rise. All in all, the lifestyle consequences of the Covid-19 regime could aggravate the conditions that fuel the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are already rampant in T&T and the wider Caribbean such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and strokes.
As we wait for Covid-19 to recede, we should recognise the inherent risk of a post-pandemic explosion of NCDs. It would be a mistake to concentrate on mounting a defence against Covid-19 while neglecting or overlooking the need to roll back the tidal wave of NCDs that have been crashing upon us for years at an increasing rate.
Special attention must be placed on our children whose lives have been up-ended by Covid-19 with the loss of routines that structure their days. Parents must be watchful about the number of hours their children are spending in front computer and TV screens and schedule physical activity for them.
Another high-risk group are women upon whom the weight of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately. Many women, especially mothers, are doing triple duty in the worlds of home, work and online school. Many have had to abandon hard-won routines of self-care to look after the needs of others. We urge them to prioritise time for themselves.
In the meantime, we are thankful that Dr Rowley is on the mend and wish him a full and speedy recovery with continued good health.