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One of the common refrains often put up by people as the defence mechanism when they are advised to do regular medical check-ups, even when there are no apparent health challenges is to say that what they don’t know will not kill them. How wrong they are! Though death is inevitable for all, in reality, what you don’t know kills more quickly, more mercilessly and more ruthlessly than what you know. Most of us know our phone numbers and that of our spouse(s), girlfriend(s) or boyfriend(s). We know our account numbers, BVN, passport number, vehicles number and so many others. Yet, we don’t know our blood pressure reading. This is a reading that can become a major creator of irreversible disabilities and premature death if it is high and left unattended. The truth is, if you cannot reel out your latest blood pressure reading (maximum 3 months old), you may be a time bomb waiting to explode. How about your blood sugar diagnostic of diabetes mellitus? Diabetes Mellitus is one of the most multi-systemic and debilitating diseases known to man or your blood cholesterol, which is a good index of what stresses your engine; the heart may be going through or your basic metabolic index (BMI), a good reflection of your physical fitness. Do you know your HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections’ status? These are diseases that are often in the body, silent, symptom less but steadily eating away the life of its host, making you risk to others including your loved ones. As a man over 40, what is the state of your prostate gland? A structure at the neck of the bladder that is often afflicted by cancer, known to spread to the nervous system causing paralysis? What about your intestines, liver, lungs and other major body organs that can be sites of pathologies? These may not be immediately obvious except you make a deliberate effort to check. As a woman, how healthy is your breast? That beautiful adornment is known to sometimes become a source of pain, suffering and premature death. How about your cervix, ovaries, womb and such other structures that define your womanhood but can also harbour silent killers? In addition to not knowing our vital numbers, many often claim to be bereft of time. Time to do physical exercise and improve our general well-being, time to go on vacation and replenish, time to eat and properly chew homemade healthy mealtime to meditate and refocus ourselves psychologically. Some of us can’t even create adequate time for sleep and rest as we live our lives under constant race of meeting deadlines. When we create time to visit clubs and supposed relaxation arena, the drive is often for business links and at weekends, we are almost always at social parties putting up appearances largely just to be socially correct. We resort to excessive alcohol to calm our nerves while some take to cigarette smoking or recreational drug becoming addicted and opening the door of their heart killers. In the final analysis, our lifestyles and our health seeking behaviour are critical to determining the illnesses we suffer, the severity of such an illness when it is discovered and the prospect of a cure or control to ensure optimal functionality for daily living. In most instances, prevention is possible when we adopt the right lifestyles and do not necessarily wait for illness to strike before we take action. With the advancement that has been made in medicine and health science, many diseases have become preventable, controllable or curable when we take proactive actions to practice positive health seeking behaviour including lifestyle modifications and regular medical revision of our body system. HIV infection, Cancers, heart diseases are no longer a sentence to an existence of chronic suffering or to death. However, the choice always belongs to the individual to either take action or play the ostrich and keep saying that what I don’t know cannot kill me.

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This article was first published on 25th August 2017


Dr. Iziaq Kunle Salako is a public health physician, political epidemiologist and former commissioner of health in Ogun State. A strong believer in a proactive healthcare system that prioritizes prevention and early detection and proponent of DIY Healthmization, he anchors a popular health promotion radio programme; Wellness Connect and is the President of a Non-Governmental Organization, Health and Wellness Optimization Foundation working on proactive actions to promote and protect the health of the public.

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