ICYMI: Things to avoid doing before age 40

Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

Although doctors are often loathe to neatly categorising disease conditions according to age, it is important to understand here and now that sustaining a good level of health is one thing before the age of 40 years and entirely another thing after that age. To be sure, diseases abound at all ages; some are acute with a short duration and equally swift resolution while others are somewhat more protean and lead to disability, lifestyle changes and even death. Today, we shall attempt to look at broadly as possible at the spectrum of bad habits that often cause us many health problems in the later years; the middle age years and the senior years.

It is wise to pay attention to them because in many ways, small and big, many of us have been guilty on so many scores.

Children are not the only people who should be taking vaccines for a variety of ailments as there is evidence that as many of six different vaccines are also recommended for adults either as primary modes of prevention or as booster doses for such conditions as chicken pox, hepatitis and influenza. Around the world, more than half a million adults die every year from vaccine-preventable deaths. It is important to appreciate that vaccination helps individuals protect themselves from certain diseases and also reduces the chance of spreading such diseases to others.

Vaccination is therefore an important aspect of preventive healthcare which is equally useful for young women. Many young women up to the age of 30 years or slightly over would be at risk of getting a surprise diagnosis of breast cancer if they do not imbibe the habit and the skill of breast self-examination at least once in a month while taking a bath or while lying quietly in bed.

The case is similar for the young girls and women aged from nine to 26 years for getting the cervical cancer vaccine. Even when they have been proven to be infected even with one strain of the human papilloma virus (HPV), it is still worthwhile to have the vaccine because there are 200 or more other strains of HPV. Taking the vaccine would prevent the ability of any of the other strains from causing them cancer. In the same way, be sure to conduct tests that monitor the levels of cholesterol in the blood to avoid a surprise of a heart attack. Ensure that routine pelvic examinations are conducted where important to similarly be able to act proactively in dealing with cancers and other tumours in that region of the body. Added to this mix is the regular conduction of cervical smear examination.

It is equally important for people who are still under the age of 40 years to ensure they take enough fluids at all times. When the cells of the body are well hydrated all organs and tissues including the skin at kept at optimal states of health. This is a quality that can endure well into old age when the sense of thirst becomes somewhat diminished. In that connection, the passing of deeply yellow urine in the absence of disease is often an indication of inadequate water intake. Urine ought to be clear or a light yellow normally. So such an appearance as the former is thus an invitation to drink more water which is preferable to taking beverages or alcohol as it frees the system of the added burden of dealing either with excess sugar or caffeine.

The development of a sedentary lifestyle is a crucially important negative factor in the early years. Long hours spent viewing television or playing with a computer terminal either as a video game or a gaming console is ultimately harmful to the eyes, the neck and the overall health. The blue light emitted by any of these screens and smartphone screens as well is now believed to alter our brains to the perception that night has yet to fall even when it is pitch-dark outdoors. The reason for this is that the brain becomes confused and it is therefore deceived to believe it is daylight whereas it is night. This has profound implications for the sleep-wake cycle, affects the production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, and deprives the person of getting adequate sleep that should average eight hours a day. If this pattern of life endures for several years during adolescence for example, the stage is then set for the development of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure during the years beyond the age of 40.

This kind of effect now evident in our bodies was unknown even a generation ago. The effects could yet be devastating in health terms.

Failing to make getting adequate sleep a priority is a huge mistake. During the ages 18 to 64 years, an average of seven to nine hours of sleep is required every night. Many millions of people around the world are of course unable to get that much sleep and the effects are slowly becoming evident; there is a world-wide explosion of rising waist-lines, obesity, stroke and diabetes. There is an increase in the number of heart disease sufferers and also of depression. Early this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO), warned that depression is now the single most important cause of disability around the world. It outstrips cancer, heart disease and road traffic accidents put together as the major public health issue of concern that now sees many people develop a tendency to provide rigid responses to their emotions.

In the main, adolescents and young adults are more involved in this attitude as a result of which they have withdrawn from normal social relationships and become addicted to their electronic devices. Insufficient sleep promotes premature aging and definitely makes people appear older than their real age.

Persistence of this attitude beyond a few years soon turns them into antisocial misfits who may be very good at what they do but prove incapable of sustaining normal relationships or maintaining satisfactory overall health. Even such mundane things as caring for the teeth can be a harbinger of serious health trouble down to road to 40 years and beyond. The appearance of dental plaques on the teeth and the gum-line when improper care is taken of the teeth is often associated with heart disease as we age. It is therefore a major achievement if adequate care of the teeth is taken by proper brushing at least two times a day for a minimum of two minutes each time with the bristles moving up and down the teeth rather than across.

Ask the doctor

Dear doctor, What could be happening to me? I am a man who just clocked 40 years. I have been married for 10 years now and have always enjoyed a healthy sex life with my wife, even though due to work, I am being transferred to Lagos while she resides in Kwara State. I travel down at least two times in a month and during that period, we usually have an intimate sexual intercourse. But lately, the sexual drive seems to be low, as in, even when we are naked together and about to have sex, even within romance, I find it difficult to have an erection. When I eventually do, by the time we start, then to retain the erection becomes another issue. But when we are not together, believe me I can tell you my manhood is okay. I get a full erection normally, and it gives me signs when I wake up in the morning. It is evident when I am in the mist of other women or when I am watching a romantic movie. So what should now be the problem when I intend to make love to my wife?

This is becoming an issue to cause some alarm because it has happened two times now within the period we came together. The first time we noticed was when she came to Lagos during the December holidays; we started well with normalcy until few days before she left and sex became worrisome. I eventually thought it was my mind thing because during that period, there were times we got into some arguments and once my mind is not good, sex becomes difficult.

After she left, I eventually felt good with my manhood, then a month later, I travelled back home to Kwara and of course, it is expected that we would have an unhindered sexual intercourse but it happened again within the three days I spent. I don’t know if this is psychological or health. What do you think is the problem? I would be glad to get a reply from you on this. I’ll be glad. God bless you. [email protected]

It seems that what you suffer from is a combination of some excessive physical dissipation and emotional trauma: physical because of the distance you now have to travel to keep your marriage healthy and the anxiety associated with the fear of failing to perform optimally in the bedroom. The solution lies with both of you; there must be more physical contact, more erotic contact and more foreplay before attempting to have sex. Soon, the old capacity will return. I do not believe there is any associated health issue per se other than what is evident above. If you make the effort as suggested above, you should get good results. Many men will experience similar issues at your age or slightly older but it is soon resolved as well. Give it a nice try and best wishes.

Dear doctor, well done sir and how is the family? God bless. Please can you name some over-the-counter medications for piles that I can buy? I have four bumps around the anus sir which I want to treat. [email protected]

Well, there are a couple of them I could recommend but you will have to get the proper instructions regarding how to insert them and how they are stored from the attending pharmacist. The more common ones are anusol and healer which you can insert twice daily into the anus and hold in place for a couple of minutes to allow the tablet melt and get absorbed into the wall of the anus.

Dear doctor, you used to write your essays in simple English but the last one on epidididymo-orchitis contained many words that I simply could not pronounce. I have been a regular reader of your column as a result because of the attractive nature of your writing. What for instance does non-gonococcal urethritis mean? Thank you sir. 0806xxxxxxx

Well, I will apologise for that because in some situations, there are simply no ways to avoid using the standard terms and still convey the meaning of the disease condition or process within the space allotted for that purpose. Non gonococcal urethritis means there is swelling of the part of the urinary system called the urethra, the tube that takes urine from our bladder to the outside, that makes it to become painful or uncomfortable while urinating and whose swelling is not caused by gonorrhoea. In other words, gonorrhoea is not the only cause of that particular disease condition.

Dear doctor, as a policeman, I am frequently made to stand for long either at work or even at the station where I am a junior officer. I want to know how I can avoid suffering from the policeman’s heel? Thank you sir.0809xxxxxxx

You must understand that this condition was first seen in policemen because of certain peculiarities in their work. However, it is not only found amongst policemen. Even housewives who spend lots of time on their feet while cooking for a large family while washing their clothes simultaneously are also at risk. The preventive measures you can take are as follows;

1)You must wear comfortable boots for your parade or work which are not tight and which should have adequate padding that can support your weight.

2)You can alternate your weight distribution by shifting from one leg to the other if the requirements of your deployment allow you to do this.

3)When you are able to get the weight off your feet, do not hesitate to sit down or lie down if possible, so that your feet can relax and be relieved.

4)When you begin to experience pains in your feet, learn to perform simple massage and even use simple pain relievers to get the discomfort away.

Dear doctor, I am a 53-year-old woman. In the past three months or thereabouts, I have suffered from bouts of dizziness. I am not hypertensive and I do not have diabetes. I am not also on any drugs other than the ones my doctor has been giving me since this problem started. He has been giving me vitamin supplements and calcium but the problem has not gone away. Once I get out of bed, the trouble begins. What do you suggest I do? Thank you for your assistance.0802xxxxxxx

I want to believe that your doctor did some basic blood tests for you before starting you off on those medicines. What you suffer from may not even be related to those supplements. Rather, it may have a lot more to do with your nerves or your monthly cycle. I believe you should see a physician for a proper examination with a view to sorting this problem out. The persistence of this problem is not in your interest because it could become so bad that you might even fall. An uncontrolled fall is particularly bad because you could hit a vital body part against a hard surface with telling consequences.

Dear doctor, my son who is now eight months of age was taken to a traditional healer when he was a month old at the insistence of my mother-in-law. There, they were massaging his body because of the left hand which he was not able to carry up when I gave birth to him. The massage sessions were so demanding that he was frequently screaming. He was still not able to raise the hand properly when he developed sores all over the back and hand and had to be admitted in the hospital for about two months. Now, all the wounds have healed and he is able to raise the hand because he is doing physiotherapy. But that hand is always bringing out pus; it might stop for some days and start again. What do we do next? I cry every day now especially when I now know what I did wrong by obeying my mother in law. Please help me. 0802xxxxxxx

I will withhold my adverse comments with regards to this deliberate mutilation of a young child’s body. When you refer to the hand, I am not sure what you mean because there is the hand, the forearm and the arm. In my experience, people frequently lump all together to address it all as the hand. That said, however, the damage has been done and your child may indeed have chronic osteomyelitis of the bone underlying the particular aspect of the limb you are referring to. If that is so, you will have to see a paediatrician for the relevant investigations and perhaps further referral to see an orthopaedic surgeon or a paediatric surgeon. Whichever way it turns out, you must be prepared to endure a long time of regular hospital visits until this problem is satisfactorily discharged.

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