Lifestyles That Cost Us in 2014 [opinion]

You are alive and presumably well this last day of 2014 hallelujah! But how healthy have these last 365 days been?

All indicators show we let our guard all the way down, with disastrous results.


It was with sadness that the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) announced that 570 Ugandan girls, aged between 15 and 24 get infected with HIV every week. To imagine that this figure adds up to 208,000 new HIV infections annually!

Not a fancy picture for a nation once exalted as leader in the fight against the pandemic. This trend is attributed to youths engaging in early and unprotected sex.

But that is not all. A survey on HIV trends by the Uganda Aids Christian Network revealed that 37 per cent of HIV positive married couples are involved in extra marital affairs. Seems to me that the myriad of guilt, fear and emotional appeal have been replaced by absolute complacency.

Now with the increasing burden of HIV from 1.2 million people in 2011 to 1.6 million at the end of 2013, more people are in need of ARVs. Of the 1.4 million people eligible for treatment, only 577,000 are receiving ARVs, according to UAC’s midterm review report of the national HIVAids strategic plan 201112-201415.

This should be reason enough for us to embrace Abstinence, Being faithful and using Condoms (ABC). Don’t let the drugs’ availability fool you into complacency ARVs have their issues too.

Irregular checkups

When was the last time you visited a clinic or hospital for a thorough medical checkup?

Majority wait until a disease weakens us before we go to hospital. Dr Gerald Mutungi, the head of the ministry of Health’s non-communicable diseases (NCD) department says the forgotten risk factor to developing NCDs is lack of medical check-up and testing.

Cancer specialists (oncologists) at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) keep aising us time and again to regularly check for early symptoms of breast, cervical or prostate cancer, as they are easier to treat then. However, Dr Fred Okuku, a senior oncologist notes that many patients present with aanced stages of cancer which are more costly and more time-consuming to treat.

A mammogram, a safe, low-dose X-ray test of the breast used to screen for breast problems or detect breast cancer is recommended at least once a year for women between 40 and 74 years of age. For men, a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is recommended to prevent prostate cancer.

Another method is the digital rectal exam (DRE) where a doctor inserts a finger through the rectum to feel the surface, firmness, groove and size of the prostate. There are regular, free Friday cancer screening clinics at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI).

Dr Robert Kalyesubula, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) at Mulago hospital recommends a kidney check-up when one passes very dark yellow urine. This could be a sign that the kidney is having challenges performing its duties.

Also regularly test for HIV, diabetes, body mass index, hypertension, in addition to twice-a-year dental checkups.


The Global Status on Alcohol and Health 2014 indicates that 23.7 litres of pure alcohol are consumed per capita annually in Uganda. Yeah quite the liquor masters and mistresses. The festive season just brought this static to reality. News was awash with many who spent their holiday in bars struggling to give their bodies a hangover to remember.

Alcohol, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), is the most actively used psychoactive substance in the world. Unlike foods, which require time for digestion, alcohol is quickly absorbed. However, it affects every organ of the body its most dramatic impact is on the liver.

In an earlier interview with Hellen Ndagire, a molecular biologist with Kisubi Brothers University College, she noted that when one drinks alcohol, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the liver via the digestive tract, affecting nearly every liver cell.

In the long term, alcohol causes liver cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease that may eventually lead to complete shutdown of the liver. And that is to not mention all alcohol’s other vices, such as impaired judgment, dehydration and insomnia.

Poor diets

Feeling determined to get your next fix of fast foods, sweets or juice laden with artificial sweeteners? Well, remember that foods and drinks high in added sugar, fats and salt may lead to weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), people who ate the largest amounts of added sugar had the highest blood triglyceride levels (a type of fat in your blood which can increase your risk of heart disease.)

So the next time you are tempted to buy a soda, grab water or fresh juice instead. Red meat intake should be minimized and keep your occasional cuts lean. Nutritionists aise people to instead eat a fibre-rich diet with whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

Also, plant oils, nuts and fish are the healthiest source of fat. Baked or fried potatoes should be avoided. This will save you from most NCDs or lifestyle diseases that thrive on bad diets and inactivity.


Obsession with image and looks has driven many women – and increasingly men – to bleaching. Many Ugandan women bleach their skins and Uganda has seen a phenomenal growth in the sale of skin-lightening creams.

However, the skin of the people using these bleaching products gets inflamed, turns red, enlarges and begins to lose function as the cells fail to produce melanin.

Source : The Observer


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