Healthcare is costly. However, the best way to reduce costs associated with health care is prevention. Hugh Reid, General Manager, JN Life Insurance Company, wants Jamaicans to monitor their health on a regular basis to reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

 “The Ministry of Health and Wellness has done some studies which state that the loss in workforce productivity over the next 15 years could be as high as $47 billion dollars, while medical costs from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes alone over the next 15 years could be as high as $29.8 billion,” Mr. Reid affirmed.
“The impact of these diseases place a high burden on families and can wipe out life savings. It is even more telling when you realize that one in three Jamaicans is hypertensive; one in eight is diabetic; and one third of the population will be diagnosed with a chronic illness,” he added.

To reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases Mr. Reid wants more Jamaicans to follow recommendations from medical practitioners.

“For example, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica has long advocated the following:

  • Avoid ultra-processed foods that are high in fat, salts and sugar. Also, reading food labels is also key. Food labels should be interpreted using the information per serving in relation to your nutrition goals.
  • Check the “Portion Size / Serving Size” and “Portions/Servings Per container”.
  • For Energy, Fat, Saturated Fat, Sugars and Sodium, smaller percentages are better.
  • For Fibre, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron and other micronutrients apart from Sodium, bigger percentages are better.
  • The percentage of the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) or percentage of the Daily Values (DA) indicate how much one portion or serving contributes to meeting your daily needs – % GDA or %DV: 5 per cent or less is low; 20 per cent or more is high. Everyone’s needs vary based on their age, height, weight, being male or female, and physical activity level, but as a general guideline, most products use 2000 calories, as the reference point, for the amount of energy that you need per day.”

“They have also outlined that how you interpret the percentages should be based on your nutrition goals, so for example, if you want to gain weight, then you would want a number close to 20 per cent for energy, but if you are trying to lose weight, then smaller percentages are better,” he added.

 Mr. Reid added that: “Exercising is important. If you are not able to manage long periods of working out, you can break them out into three smaller, 10-15 minute workouts throughout the day and work your way up. Exercise improves not just physical, but mental agility and sharpness.  Getting a good night’s sleep is also important. Sleep deprivation not only leads to fatigue and grogginess, but it can also have adverse effects on your mental and physical health. To ensure you get enough sleep, it is important that you power down electronic devices and give yourself some time to relax your mind before bed.”

Mr. Reid informed that there was also a need for affordable insurance solutions so persons can invest in their health, adding there was “also a need to invest in critical illness plans to assist with mitigating the huge costs associated with treating chronic diseases.” He recommended that Jamaicans should consider purchasing more than one critical illness plan to ensure adequate funds are available if a critical illness occurs.

Mrs. Barbara McGaw, Project Manager, Global Health Advocacy Project, The Heart Foundation of Jamaica, added that with the dietary habits of Jamaicans changing over the years, there has been an increased consumption of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. “This is also attributed to the increased presence of pre-packaged processed foods which are pervasively marketed at attractive prices. A poor diet is one of the leading causes of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially cardiovascular diseases globally,” she explained.

She urged Jamaicans to follow these simple steps to remain healthy:

  • Get regular screening to know your four health numbers: blood sugar, blood pressure, blood lipids and body mass index (BMI).
  • Follow a healthy diet and practice to read food labels.
  • Eat adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains for dietary fibre.
  • Drink more water, fewer sugary drinks, and less alcohol.
  • Try not to skip meals; eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
  • Controll portion size and calorie intake. 
  • Stay physically active and aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity for five days per week. It can help you lose extra pounds and ease stress,” Mrs McGaw affirmed.