A little get-up-and-go will change your life for the better
HEART disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer are all lifestyle diseases that are threatening to limit and end the lives of millions of South Africans.
As we start the year – most of our intentions are good. To maintain our health, lose weight and be more active. But somehow, at some point, we fall off the wagon.
The overall health is more than just a resolution – it’s a lifestyle and requires change – more specifically, it requires you to change. We have compiled a few changes, that if you were to make today, your future self will thank you.
With nearly 8 million adults lighting up 27 billion cigarettes in the country every year, it’s clear South Africans have a smoking problem.
This, according to the Western Cape No-Tobacco Task Team – a collaboration including the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, Cancer Association of SA, University of Cape Town (UCT) Lung Institute, City of Cape Town, and Western Cape Department of Health.
According to Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit of the UCT Lung Institute, smoking increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia, emphysema and doubles your risk of tuberculosis.
Quitting is not always that easy as the nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive. “There is no magic bullet that will work for everybody, so the approach to stop smoking should be individualised and often requires a combination of strategies.
“Successful quitting will require emotional support and possibly medication such as nicotine replacement. A clear strategy, a defined start date, a long-term plan, and ongoing support for success or relapses increases the chances of success”, says Van ZylSmit, who also authored the South African tobacco-smoking cessation guidelines.
In South Africa, four out of 10 men and seven out of 10 women are overweight or obese – this is a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, a largely silent, asymptomatic condition with devastating cardiovascular outcomes.
There may be as many as 4.6 million people in South Africa living with diabetes, and possibly the same number at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Grant Newton, chief executive of the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE), says it is critical that as a society we start working together to manage the current national crisis posed by diabetes and related chronic health conditions, all of which result in premature and increased cardiovascular risk. “Not everyone will develop this potentially lifethreatening health condition, but diabetes will affect all of us. We are concerned that in South Africa 68% of people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.”
Change your lifestyle. According to non-profit organisation, Diabetes SA, scientists believe that lifestyle and type 2 diabetes are closely linked. This means that lifestyle is one area which individuals can focus on to help prevent or delay the onset of the disease. A healthy diet, weight control, exercise, reduction in stress and no smoking are important preventative steps.
According to the Cancer Association of SA, South African men have a lifetime risk of one in every 27. The top cancers affecting men in the country are prostate cancer, Kaposi sarcoma (a skin cancer), lung and colorectal cancer and testicular cancer, which is one of the most commonly diagnosed in men between the ages of 15 and 39.
It claims the lives of many young men who are often too scared or embarrassed to speak up when it comes to finding lumps or irregularities in their testicles.
Check your balls. It’s as easy as feeling around after a warm shower or bath for any hard lumps, as well as any noticeable changes to the size, shape and appearance of the testicles. Screening is also key – routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing annually for men from age 40 who are at high risk of prostate cancer. This includes those men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65 years).
The silent killer, high blood pressure, affects millions of people and their families in the country, with 6.3 million living with high blood pressure.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, one in three South Africans, 15 years and older, have hypertension, with the highest rate of high blood pressure reported among people aged 50 and over for any country in the world. Almost eight out of 10 people in this age group are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and a shocking one in 10 children are already suffering from high blood pressure.
The South African Medical Association emphasised the importance of “knowing your number” – meaning, get your blood pressure checked.
From there, you should reduce salt consumption, eat more fruit and vegetables, limit alcohol intake, quit smoking if you are a puffer, be physically active and maintain a healthy body weight.
If gym membership fees are a deterrent to you being your best healthy and in-shape self – here’s an alternative, just run. It’s free – so no excuses. Not only is it good for your overall health but it also aids in weight loss and muscle tone. Furthermore, running or being physically active also boosts mental health.
Find a good safe route, get the right gear and hit the tar. Whether running alone or as a group, in the morning or late afternoon, get up and go – physical activity reduces the chances of developing a plethora of ailments, including those listed here.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL: A woman prepares for a run.