• ‘Poems, love letters better than chocolates’

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    ON the day of hearts, give “heart-healthy” gifts or choose a healthy lifestyle.

    LOVE TRAIN Commuters ride an LRT Line 1 coach with Valentine’s decorations. LRT coaches will carry the flower theme for the whole month of February as a treat to the often harried train riders of Metro Manila. PHOTO BY MIKE DE JUAN

    This was the heartfelt advice given by Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial on Monday, ahead of Valentine’s Day.

    There are other ways to be “sweet,” like giving poems, letters or love notes, instead of chocolates, Ubial said.
    If lovers can’t help but eat something sweet, fresh fruits are the healthier choice, she said.

    And if buying chocolate is inevitable, choose dark chocolate with less sugar and caramel, specifically those with 60 to 70 percent cocoa. But keep consumption to an ounce or 30 grams a day, she said.

    Aside from monitoring food consumption, Health officials urged the public to be active this Valentine’s and walk at least 30 minutes.

    Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014 showed that more than 30 percent of deaths linked to non-communicable diseases were because of cardiovascular diseases.

    In the Philippines, heart and vascular diseases have consistently been the top causes of mortality, with 187,065 deaths recorded in 2013, the latest available data showed. Diabetes is also in the top 10 causes of mortality, with 27,064 deaths in 2013.

    The Health department also called on the public to be careful with their hearts by quitting smoking or convincing a loved one to stop, as smoking can also contribute to heart disease.

    Condoms every day
    Also on Monday, the Department of Health (DOH) clarified that condoms are available year-round at government health facilities, not just on Valentines’ Day.

    The health department stressed that it was promoting condom access, not condom distribution. But it is not discouraging local governments and non-government organizations from distributing condoms today in places like the Manila Flower Center in Dangwa.

    Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo urged those who plan to celebrate the day of hearts in hotels and motels to book in advance to avoid being stressed out by long lines, and to practice “safe sex” whether or not pregnancy is intended.

    The DOH has been encouraging the public to use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

    Latest data available showed that 26 HIV infections are reported daily in the Philippines.
    Ubial has one final advice: “Be faithful to your partner.”

    It is proven to reduce stress based on available evidence, she said, adding that having several partners increases the risk of acquiring or transmitting STDs.

    ‘Real love’
    Pro-life groups on Monday said they have the best solution to the STD and HIV problems – “real love” or “chaste love” where sexuality is exercised within marriage.

    The groups Filipinos for Life, Love Life Philippines, Pro-Life Philippine Foundation, and Youth Pinoy will again counter the annual condom distribution at Dangwa by exchanging the free prophylactics with candies.

    “When DOH distributes condoms, we’d be happy to exchange them with candies and messages of what real love is,” said Dr. Ryan Borja Capitulo, board member of Filipinos for Life, in a Facebook post.

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