Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Your Behavior and Your Health

By: Jenie Hinaloc

Description : Of the four factors, your behavior is the one most within your control. Changing it for the better can help. Granted, poverty limits the changes you can make in your diet and habits, but by utilizing the choices that are available, you can make a substantial difference. Note the following example.

A mother usually has a choice between breast-feeding and bottle-feeding her baby. Breast-feeding, says the United Nations Children’s Fund, is “the superior choice, both physically and economically.” Mother’s milk, say experts, is “the ultimate health food,” giving the baby “precisely the right concentrations of protein, fat, lactose, vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are needed for harmonious growth.” Breast milk also transports disease-fighting proteins, or antibodies, from the mother to the baby, giving the infant a head start in combating diseases.

Especially in tropical lands with poor sanitary conditions, breast-feeding is best. Unlike bottle milk, breast milk cannot be overdiluted to save money, mistakes cannot be made during its preparation, and it is always served from a clean container. In contrast, “a bottle-fed baby in a poor community,” notes Synergy, a newsletter from the Canadian Society for International Health, “is approximately 15 times more likely to die from diarrheal disease and four times more likely to die from pneumonia than a baby who is exclusively breastfed.”

Then there is the economic advantage. In the developing world, powdered milk is costly. In Brazil, for example, bottle-feeding a baby may take one fifth of a poor family’s monthly income. The money saved by breast-feeding can provide healthier meals for the whole family—including mother.

With all these advantages, you would expect breast-feeding to be booming. Yet, health workers in the Philippines report that breast-feeding there is “gravely threatened with extinction,” and a study in Brazil showed that one of the main factors associated with infants dying from respiratory infection is “lack of breastfeeding.” Your infant, however, may escape that fate. You have a choice.

Mother’s efforts to protect baby’s health are often undermined, though, by the unhealthy behavior of other family members. Take as an example one mother in Nepal. She shares a damp room with her husband and three-year-old daughter. The tiny room, writes Panoscope magazine, is filled with kitchen and tobacco smoke. The child suffers from a respiratory infection. “I cannot stop my husband from smoking,” sighs the mother. “I now buy cigarettes for my husband and medicine for my child.”

Sadly, her dilemma is becoming increasingly common as ever more people in the developing countries waste much-needed income by taking up smoking. In fact, for every smoker who stops smoking in Europe or the United States, two people start smoking in Latin America or Africa. Misleading advertisements, notes the Dutch book Roken Welbeschouwd, are much to blame. Slogans such as “Varsity: for that fine clear-headed feeling” and “Gold Leaf: very important cigarettes for very important people” convince the poor that smoking is linked to progress and prosperity. But the opposite is true. It burns up your money and ruins your health.

Consider this. Every time a person smokes a cigarette, he shortens his life expectancy by ten minutes and increases his risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as lung, throat, and mouth cancers and other diseases. Says UN Chronicle magazine: “Tobacco consumption is the single greatest preventable cause of premature death and disability in the world.” Please note that it says “preventable cause.” You can snuff out your last cigarette.

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