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A healthy perspective

by Neil Dennehy

As we say farewell to 2021, a year that feels more like an extension of 2020 rather than one in its own right, we get an opportunity to welcome a new one. But what will we invite into our lives in this coming year?

2021, a strange year by any account, along with the previous nine months, shifted the world’s focus onto health in a way never seen before. It showed us that the pursuit of wellbeing for ourselves and our loved ones can inspire us to make significant changes regardless of convenience.

Perhaps in 2022, we can expand our perspective beyond Covid to encompass general health? “Health is Wealth” so surely, we would all be better off if we adopted more positive measures to improve the nations state of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

With the benefit of time and hindsight, we know that Covid sits quite low down our list of concerns. A Trinity College Dublin 2021 report “Dying and Death in Ireland: What do we routinely measure, how can we improve?” gives a breakdown of the causes of death in Ireland in 2018. We can use this info as a yardstick for comparison.

Cancer topped the list at 31% or almost 10,000 people. Circulatory disease was a close second at 29%, just over 9,000 souls. In the year before Covid made its unwelcome arrival on our shores, respiratory disease accounted for 13% or just over 4,000 of our losses. Mental and behavioural disorders resulted in 6% or almost 1,900 losses, a figure I would expect has grown due to isolation and anxiety.

The total number of those who passed with Covid (the majority of whom had one or more conditions that contributed to their illness) stands at less than 6,000 in almost two years which fits within a typical year for respiratory illness. This figure is dwarfed by other conditions.

I’m not making light of those who passed with Covid or saying that we shouldn’t take appropriate action. Every life is valuable, and we should always strive for health. I’m simply asking if it is now time to consider other issues like cancer, obesity, heart and lung conditions which add significantly to covid losses and have a major impact on our lifespan regardless of the presence of a positive covid test. Quality of life matters too.

Smoking, processed meats, alcohol and the use of toxic chemicals are widely accepted by experts as contributors to cancer. If health is truly our priority, perhaps we should consider closing takeaways, pubs and banning the use of toxic pesticides, industrial and household chemicals to protect ourselves and our loved ones?

Obesity is linked to cancer, heart disease and covid deaths so maybe we can introduce “Body-fat-level certificates” before people can access restaurants or cafés for their safety and to reduce hospitalisations? How about mandating “Respiratory-function certs” to buy a packet of cigarettes?

At the very least, we could open all the gyms, fitness and health centres, while subsidising nutritional programmes to reduce obesity levels, boost natural immunity and build a healthier more resilient population. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t and still can’t find any logic in closing gyms, health-food shops and a host of wellness providers while allowing fast-food deliveries and the sale of cigarettes and alcohol when faced with a respiratory disease pandemic!

I’ve been in healthcare long enough to know that major changes in health policies aren’t made unless there is a pile of money to be made, usually by the pharmaceutical industry. In the event that our advisors in NPHET don’t read this article, give big Tony the heave-ho and take on my suggestions for a more comprehensive approach to the health of our nation, you can still be pro-active and reap the rewards yourself.

Here are my Top-5 health and wellness tips. They are very easy to adopt and make a real difference in a short space of time especially if you’ve been over-indulging over the holidays and need to detox the body and recharge the batteries.

1) Water: 2-3 litres per day, from a clean source. This will help you flush waste from your body and hydrate your muscles and vertebral discs making physical movement more comfortable. There’s no better way to moisturise your skin too, so you’ll feel and look better.

2) Sleep: 7- 8 hours per day and remember, an hour before 12 is worth two after. Most of our body’s growth, healing and repair work is done while we sleep. This is why babies, teenagers and the sick must sleep so much. Like babies, we get cranky when tired so if your mood is often poor, sleep could help. A boost in concentration levels is another bonus.

3) Exercise: 3 – 4 hours per week. If we want strength, stamina, flexibility, balance and co-ordination, we must regularly engage in activities that require these. Only then will the body develop and maintain such fitness. It really is a case of “Use it or lose it”. Use exercise to challenge your body with a variety of exercises, just to the edge of your comfort zone, and watch how your body adapts.

4) Nutrition: Eat a variety of nutrient dense, natural foods and use supplements where required. We truly are what we eat as the body replaces old, worn-out or damaged cells with new functional versions formed from and fuelled by the vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates we eat. This applies to muscle, skin, bone, nerves, blood, hair and those of our organs. Our hormones also depend on the supply of these nutrients. It’s not just a case of “Eat fat, get fat”.

5) Mindfulness: Bring mindful awareness to thoughts and actions. We are creatures of habit and often operate without considering if how we think or behave benefits us. How often do we wish we hadn’t eaten junk food, spoken without consideration or reacted rather than acting consciously? Through greater awareness we can create more productive habits, let go of stress and develop a more positive outlook on life.

You can find detailed information on these tips and much more in my book, “What to do with Stardust? A mindful guide to health, wellbeing and success” available from the Honeypot Health food store, Sacred Senses, the Bookmarket, Clonmel and . Contact details for our Health Matters team of wellness practitioners can be found on the website too.

2022 has a nice ring to it. It also has the potential get us all back to feeling good and living life. Happy New Year from myself and the Health Matters team.

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