Too many Virgin Islands residents are ignoring their health and well-being. The cost to the taxpayer is astronomical and increasing. Prevention is better than cure.

It is public knowledge the VI has a cancer problem. Then there are further problems with heavy use of kidney dialysis machines and issues of hypertension — not to mention the huge evil of diabetes in the territory.

Okay. This writer will make a public confession. He is a fat boy. He has always had a weight problem. He is not ashamed to confess that.

He loves all the “wrong foods” and could “slouch” around all day if he had the choice. However, when a visit to the doctor went south, “life change” was no longer optional: not unless a very short life was on his proverbial wish list.

He pondered deeply after that doctor’s visit. And one of the first things he did was purchase a mountain bike at one of the businesses in the VI that deserves a special award for excellent customer service: The Bike Shop at Pasea. Mountain biking was easy to do. He has always loved the great outdoors, and he was an avid cyclist as a child.

That was five years ago. The rest is history. He has become an enthusiastic biker. Thankfully he has always been a swimmer, and teaches swimming, so he fits in exercise when he teaches his swimming classes. Swimming is excellent cardiovascular exercise.

However, daily cycling and walking have not left him looking or feeling like Adonis. It has been a painful five years. Getting into shape is a mountain climb. But it is certainly worth the effort. He still has a lot of work to do if he is to make the 100-year mark.

 

‘Severely obese’

What inspired this commentary was his observation at a place he had to visit recently, where a substantial crowd was also present. He realised at this event that over 90 percent of those present were obese. About half were severely obese. And being the man he is, he pondered over what he observed.

The present and future generation of Virgin Islanders will be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. This is not alarmist. It is a fact. An assessment of numbers by the BVI Health Services Authority may well bear this out.

There is ample research that obesity is life shortening. It is right up there with smoking as a leading cause of cancer. Obesity also leads to heart disease, diabetes and chronic illness. Obesity makes the aging process much more complicated and distressful. Sickness at and over the age of 60 offers a poor quality of life.

Thankfully, there is a remedy to the trauma of being obese. For the severely obese, one answer is surgery and a complete life change thereafter. For the obese, lifestyle change is needed.

Another harsh fact: As people age, the metabolism slows. Obesity increases with age. The problem gets worse at middle age, threatening longevity in a world where medical science and knowledge of what is good for people have made living into the 90s and beyond a new normal.

So what is the solution? For islanders, it means ditching the use of the car and walking unless the use of the car is completely necessary. It means eating a plant-based diet and ditching red meat. That daily walk of 15,000 steps will help control obesity, but go further and buy a bicycle and commute to work if that is possible. Learn to swim. Swimming is excellent exercise for the middle aged.

There is hard evidence lifting weights regularly drives a faster metabolism by building muscle mass and reducing body mass index. So lift weights at the gym.

With obesity and poor health, wise decisions will place us on a better path to a good health and well-being. I look forward to your 90th birthday.

 

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