With 60 per cent of the beds in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) occupied by persons afflicted with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), retired medical practitioner Dr Maurice Smith is urging Barbadians to change their sedentary lifestyles and to immediately address their bad eating habits.
The retired gynecologist made the appeal at the University of West Indies Cave Hill Campus this week during Health Week, which runs June 12-16 under the theme Generating Wealth Through Health.
Dr Smith argued that the fight against NCDs in Barbados was an uphill battle, with 25 per cent of the population suffering from hypertension, stroke, heart attack and cancer. He disclosed that two to three strokes occurred here on a daily basis with 14 heart attacks were recorded every week.
He therefore urged those in attendance to “let food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food”.
Advocating for the use of kitchen gardens and an agrarian lifestyle, Dr Smith said: “The diet we’re exposed to these days bears no resemblance to what our forefathers had before us. The food on average is 45 to 50 per cent depleted in terms of the nourishment we get . . . [and] by the time the stuff gets to you, the nutrition has long disappeared.”
The medical practitioner said Barbadians needed to be reprogrammed and re-educated on healthy practices, as he suggested that too many people were prone to following dietary myths and quick fixes in their search for results.
“We have also been led to believe that fat is a bad word, until we discovered that every cell in your body has fat in the cell wall and cannot perform its function unless there is fat in the cell wall. . . . We were designed to use fat for energy, but now we have to find a way to re-educate the body to use fat for energy and not sugar,” said Dr Smith. “The reason we are where we are now is because we switched to a high carbohydrate diet and got rid of fat. . . . But you have to be careful that the fat you are using is healthy fat and good fat.”
The medical doctor also cautioned the audience against the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs as they seek cures for their illnesses.
He contended that medication was not the solution to chronic disease but merely helped to control the condition.
“A lot of us are on pharmaceutical medications . . . . The problem is that they don’t cure or get rid of any problem. They only treat symptoms and therefore they mask the problems.
“Over the last ten to 15 years . . . we have lost 28 lives from pharmaceuticals. . . . I think that’s a lesson to be learnt. We need pharmaceuticals, especially in emergency situations, but that is not the way to go in healing this problem of non-communicable chronic diseases. It has to be diet,” he stressed.
He also told members of the audience that they needed to focus on improving their health and ensuring they had a long life.
“We spend our time accumulating wealth until we get to the stage in life where we then have to spend that wealth to get our health. It’s maybe too late to go back and start over, but it is not too late to start now and have a different ending,” Dr Smith suggested.