Sunday, 15 March 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic - An Opportunity to Improve Health

Ever since the outbreak of novel corona virus or COVID-19 infection at Wuhan, and its subsequent spread to various other countries, our entire focus seems to be on this pandemic and nothing else! Even when I try to read a professional article on the internet, a “pop-up” provides live updates on COVID-19 infection. Public reaction to this epidemic ranges from indifference to panic. We read news reports of people running away from quarantine facility as well as fights erupting over buying toilet paper!

Well, epidemics and pandemics are not new to humans. The recent “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 killed 575,400 people worldwide. We have read about the “black death” or bubonic plaque pandemic of 14th century in our history books. My grandmother’s accounts of widespread cholera and small pox killing many people in our villages are still fresh in my memory. The difference now is the way both the disease and the related information spread in this modern era. With globalization, the world has become a small place with many people travelling across the globe quickly and it has facilitated rapid spread of infections like COVID-19. With the advent of internet, both information and misinformation are shared at lightning speed. Given the current information overload and one’s legitimate concerns, the common man struggles to cope with the fast-changing situation.

COVID-19 (Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)
Available data on COVID-19 infection indicates that healthy adults develop a mild disease or remain asymptomatic, and only the elderly and those with underlying chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disease or certain cancers are at risk of developing a severe to critical infection.

Of course, we do have a risk of acquiring COVID-19 infection if exposed and we need to follow the precautions prescribed by the authorities. Enough and more information is available on the “Do and Don’ts” of how to prevent COVID-19 infection. But the main protection we have is our “innate immunity”. Instead of getting into a panic mode, COVID-19 pandemic can be a used as an opportunity to improve our health. So, the time has come for us focus on the following measures:

Eat healthy – Start eating healthy food with enough fruits and vegetables. If you are working from home, it is time to enjoy home cooked food. Those of you who enjoy cooking can try out new recipes!

Exercise – Exercise regularly. At least, start walking 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Ground exercises, yoga, and aerobics are other options that you can try at home. However, it is advisable to avoid gyms.

Sleep adequately – Preferably sleep for 7-8 hours a day. Maintain regular sleep hours.

Quit smoking – Tobacco smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and lung cancer among others. Smoking damages your lungs and makes you more vulnerable to develop pneumonia and chronic obstructive lung disease. So, it’s time to kick this habit.

Moderate alcohol consumption – Chronic drinking can cause health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Moreover, heavy drinking can suppress our immune cells. It is beneficial to stop drinking altogether; however, if you must, drink in moderate quantities.

Make lifestyle changes – Those of you who have lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease, but could not make the necessary lifestyle changes so far, can start now to control your disease.

Reduce stress – High stress levels may impair your immunity. COVID-19 pandemic has made many organizations to let their employees work from home. Though working from home may demand a certain disciple to maintain optimum work output, it can also increase valuable time you spend with your loved ones. Some of the measures mentioned above will help reduce stress. In addition, relax by spending your spare time in activities your enjoy such as reading, listening to music, playing with your children, and spending quality time with your spouse, to name a few. 

Every experience, good or bad offers newer opportunities. Faster lifestyle has moved us away from the simple pleasures of life. COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to slow down our pace, look at our lives critically and make positive changes for better health. Remember, your immunity is your greatest weapon against any infection!

This article was first published on LinkedIn.com on 15th March 2020.

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