Crystal Bensen, FNP-C, is the medical provider for U.S. Embassy N’Djamena, and has many years of experience working across Africa and North America. She agreed to share some advice with us in honor of Men’s Health Month, based on her work here in Chad:
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST HEALTH CHALLENGES FACING MEN IN CHAD, AND WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STAY HEALTHY?
Cigarette smoking can cause problems with your lungs resulting in asthma, emphysema, and also esophageal and lung cancer. It can make you more prone to respiratory infections as your lungs are not as healthy as nonsmokers. Smoking cigarettes also causes problems with constriction of your blood vessels which can result in heart disease, strokes, and erectile dysfunction. Don’t smoke!
Health experts suggest men limit alcohol intake to 2 drinks per day or less. Drinking too much over time can cause chronic physical and mental health issues. Heavy drinking can cause liver damage, cardiovascular disease and multiple types of cancer.
Many men in Chad have a diet that is laden with red meat like camel, beef, and goat. Eating red meat is associated with higher risk for heart disease and strokes. Both drinking alcohol and eating red meats can spur a gout attack. Try to limit eating red meat to 2 times a week. Eat other sources of protein like fish and chicken. Eat 700 grams of fruit and 850 grams of vegetables a day for a balanced diet.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST HEALTH PRACTICES THAT MEN CAN PASS ON TO THEIR SONS?
Research has shown that there is an association between the health of a person’s mouth and their overall health. For your sons to keep their teeth and gums healthy, have them brush their teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste. Using the traditional piece of wood does not clean the teeth well and could lead to tooth decay, pain, and rot.
Health is a lifestyle choice, so eliminate unsafe practices as part of your health plan. There are many fatal traffic accidents in Chad every year. Teach your family to be mindful of driving around other vehicles and possible blind spots—especially for motos. Pay attention to the road, and do not use the phone for talking or texting while driving. Use your signals when turning, and your headlight unless there is plenty of daylight. Wear a helmet with a face guard to prevent eye and head injuries. Cautious driving is healthy driving.
IN ADDITION TO WASHING HANDS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19, WHAT HEALTH ADVICE DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Because the coronavirus can be spread when you are not having symptoms it is important to wear a face covering when you are outside of your home to protect others. If you feel sick, stay home to prevent the spread to others. Since elderly people have a higher risk of getting a more severe form of the virus, try to stay away from them until you are feeling better to prevent passing the virus to them.