Engage Africa Foundation had the pleasure of interviewing Femi Odutola - a Nigerian engineer residing in Canada, for the Hitting Home Series. His habit of going for regular medical check-ups is impressive and indeed requires emulation - as that habit is a necessity that is often taken for granted. Femi Odutola shares how the habit has helped him stay in charge of his body and safe from chronic illness. In addition, he gives several other tips for staying healthy and fit! Have a look:
- Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Femi Odutola. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I moved to Canada for school as a teenager and I now live and work in Calgary, Alberta. I am an engineer by day but during my spare time I like to get involved in volunteering and philanthropic activities within my community. I love sports, particularly soccer and basketball but I also love the spirit of competition, so I’ll watch and play anything as long as I understand what is going on. I enjoy travelling and experiencing different cultures, so I think that has played a significant role in shaping the person I am today.
- You sign up for medical check-ups regularly. Why is that so?
I don’t quite remember how I picked up the habit, to be honest. I think I was just about to embark on the fitness journey so I needed to make sure I had no physical limitations. Then my doctor suggested I also do my blood work and all that other medical stuff in addition to my physicals. I assumed I was fairly healthy so I didn’t really see the point of going through the extra ‘stress’. When my results came back, I found out that I apparently had a low platelet count. After a subsequent consultation with the Hematologist, I discovered that it was common for people from African backgrounds to have lower platelet counts than some people of other descent. However, the experience taught me to check-up on my health regularly as it could have been worse. I have also eased up on my protein supplements due to an early detection of its impact on my health following another check-up. Bottom line is that there is definitely a lot of value to getting frequent checkups.
- Do you think the above habit is common among Africans?
I don’t know if it is an uncommon habit amongst any particular demography of people. I can’t say specifically. However from my observation, I don’t see too many people around me taking a keen interest in checking up on their health. I think the general perspective amongst many of us is that we feel healthy and as a result, there isn’t much to check up on. I have been on that side of the fence before so from that point of view, it (not signing up for regular check-ups) is probably common among Africans.
- If no (with regard to the previous question), why do you think Africans need to develop the habit?
A lot of people are typically free from medical conditions that can be easily diagnosed by physical examination alone. As a result, I believe it is very important that we take the precautionary approach of medical check-ups to mitigate the chances of otherwise preventable, severe medical conditions. My advice to anyone reading this will be to take more interest in his or her health and overall well-being. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor to discuss what tests you may need and how often you are required to take them.
- Are there any activities that you do to stay fit?
Yes, I try to go to the gym 3-5 times a week depending on my schedule. I also play soccer every Saturday and I recently added basketball and biking to my weekly routine. In addition, I play the occasional game of badminton with my coworkers. I definitely try to stay as active as I can. I don’t think everyone has to go to such lengths though. Just remember that even walking around the block regularly helps burn those extra calories and keeps you healthy.
- What are some healthy African meals that you know of?
There are many African meals that can be prepared to taste delicious and healthy at the same time. The ingredients make the meal and therefore, a lot of meals can be made healthier just by substituting or reducing certain ingredients. Palm oil for example, will result in more unhealthy saturated fats in your meals when used in larger quantities. Also, reducing your salt intake will reduce your chances of high blood pressure. As far as healthy choices go, my bias is of course towards Nigerian meals as I haven’t had the opportunity to try a lot of meals from other African countries. For example, “efo riro” can be quite the healthy meal (sans palm oil, of course) as it is rich in vegetables and protein. So are “Edikaikong” and a host of others.
Ultimately, everything should be taken in moderation. If you are like me, you should probably cut down on your plantain chips intake and a lot of the deep fried snacks.
- How can people connect with you (social media, website etc)?
You can connect with me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/odutee) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/odutee) and I’ll be quite happy to hear your opinion and perhaps learn a few health tips. You can also check out my blog www.ijebuoligarch.com where I occasionally share my random musings.
Thank you, Femi!
About the author
Chiamaka Mogo is the Curator of Engage Africa Foundation's Hitting Home Series. She is also a media consultant, social justice advocate, blogger (http://blurredcreations.com) and Public Administration scholar based in Canada's capital - Ottawa.