LIFESTYLE CHECK: Are Your Work and Eating Habits Killing You?

Most overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the UAE who have died of illnesses have had telltale signs but didn’t see a doctor because they “were too busy and didn’t have time.”

(Editor’s note: The Filipino Times is running this feature on the occasion of April 7 being World Health Day)

DUBAI: On Dec. 4 last year, 41-year-old Laarni Reyes Remoquillo of Batangas was rushed to Rashid Hospital after her brain started to bleed. She went into coma and died on Jan. 20 this year following a 47-day battle with brain aneurysm.

In November, also last year, 45-year-old Jose Arnold Aguilar of Cotabato, was likewise rushed to the same hospital for brain stroke. He died after a week of being comatose and arrived home in the Philippines on Christmas Day in a box.

Aside from being overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Remoquillo and Aguilar had another thing in common: They were already experiencing headaches but thought nothing of it. They had telltale signs but thought nothing of it.

“She was perfectly fine that morning,” said Leah Reyes Rathnayake, Laarni’s sister, recalling the day Remoquillo experienced a sharp pain and was hurriedly sent to the hospital. “Usually, she doesn’t complain, if she could manage the pain…maybe she thought it was just one of those days,” Rathnayake said.

The same was the case for Aguilar, whose friends said he had been complaining about a recurring headache.

The two are part of statistics showing the extent to which brain stroke and cardiac arrest have become top killers of OFWS in the UAE. Available records at the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) showed that 98 of the 154 deaths from January to October 2017 were caused by either of the two.

Broken down, the PCG records stated that 68 Pinoys died of cardiac arrest, 30 of brain hemorrhage from January to October this year

Ironically, doctors said such wouldn’t have been the case if the proper healthcare routine was followed.

Road to healthy life

The road to a healthy life style always begins with the right choice of food to consume.

“Following balanced healthy diets with regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables along with paying attention to the importance of vitamin D level assessment and management of its deficiency will help avoid the chronic conditions,” said Dr. Sally Ismail Mohammed ElDemiry, General Practitioner at First Global Clinic in Abu Dhabi.

Avoidance of these medical conditions can also be achieved with a more active life style. “Despite the weather often being very hot, walking as much as possible and doing some gentle exercise all helps to keep the muscles and joints moving and helps alleviate the likelihood of developing illnesses.” said Dr. Jairam K. Aithal, Consultant – Cardiovascular Disease at Burjeel Hospital also in Abu Dhabi.

Having a good night’s rest is very important as sleep reduces the stress levels of an individual, the doctors said.

Dreading the thought

Indeed, despite the medical breakthroughs and advancements, most OFWs still dread the thought of ever going to a hospital, even for their annual physical examinations thinking that it’s just a “waste of time.”

“Inom lang ng tubig,” or “Ipahinga mo lang yan. Gagaan din pakiramdam mo,” are the most common advice. Worse, some have become “Dr. Google,” checking the internet for the symptoms they were experiencing and resorting to self-medication.

Thus, there have been cases of OFWs getting confined in hospitals for several days due to illnesses which can sometimes cause in their untimely demise.

‘Three Horsemen’

Ambassador Constancio R. Vingno Jr. said the three main causes of death of OFWs in Abu Dhabi are diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. He said rice is the main culprit for diabetes cases.

“In the end, nasa kinakain natin yan – at pinakamatindi ay yung kanin for diabetes. Pag nagkaroon ka ng diabetes, mag-ba-branch out na yan,” he said.

Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes, for his part said a lot of the cases involving Filipinos who die in Dubai and the Northern Emirates are those of stroke, hypertension and high blood pressure.

“Obviously it shows the kind of lifestyle of the Filipinos here, what food they eat, their daily schedules, their intake perhaps of alcohol, fatty foods, or de lata (canned goods) for example – so it becomes endemic to the Filipino diet especially since ours is a very rice-based, carbohydrate-based one.” said Cortes.



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