Sunday Times

Life­styles that can kill

For the first time in the new SA, re­searchers have ex­am­ined how the var­i­ous race groups be­have when it comes to meal­times — and it could help steer peo­ple to­wards a health­ier way of liv­ing

- By SIPOKAZI FOKAZI Health · Lifestyle · Healthy Food · Healthy Living · Austria · Belgium · Belarus · Cape Town · Iceland · Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada · Medical Research Council

She didn’t know it at the time, but when Loretta Steyn dis­cov­ered eight years ago that she had high blood pres­sure, she was ful­fill­ing her des­tiny. As a coloured woman, Steyn be­longs to a pop­u­la­tion group with a high risk of hy­per­ten­sion, ac­cord­ing to re­search which, for the first time in the new SA, looks at how life­style dis­eases are tak­ing their toll on dif­fer­ent race groups.

Hy­per­ten­sion turns out to be the curse of the coloured com­mu­nity, a find­ing borne out by Steyn’s im­me­di­ate fam­ily, in which three out of six peo­ple di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure have died.

Steyn, 65, from Bel­har in Cape Town, has lost her mother and two sis­ters. Her brother is re­cov­er­ing from a stroke af­ter years of liv­ing with hy­per­ten­sion. Her 37-year-old son is on med­i­ca­tion af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with high blood pres­sure a few years ago.

The for­mer shop man­ager is con­vinced the con­di­tion is in her fam­ily’s genes, but she also ac­knowl­edged her “bad life­style” as a fac­tor. “For many years I didn’t live right,” she said.

“When I was work­ing I didn’t care much about what I ate and as a re­sult I con­sumed a lot of take­aways be­cause I could af­ford them. As I was work­ing very hard, I of­ten got too tired to pre­pare healthy meals at home.”

It was in 2010, af­ter suf­fer­ing con­stant headaches and fa­tigue, that Steyn was di­ag­nosed with hy­per­ten­sion, and even though she now eats healthily and ex­er­cises, she fears the dam­age is done.

“Had I lived the way I do now at a much younger age I think I would have de­layed de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease,” she said. “At a younger age we were too glad just to eat, and we didn’t care how healthy the food was.”

In the new study, car­ried out by the Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil (MRC) and the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion and just pub­lished in the jour­nal PLOS One, blacks and In­di­ans emerge as the groups most likely to die from di­a­betes, and white men emerge as the heav­i­est drinkers.

Robert De­laney, 82, who started drink­ing in his teens, said: “There is prob­a­bly some truth to that. I started drink­ing at a very young age with friends. They used to drink a lot, es­pe­cially on week­ends, and would go for big meals such as steaks.

“But I don’t con­sider my­self a heavy drinker, or a big eater for that mat­ter. I don’t drink more than three glasses of wine. If I’m hav­ing whisky I will have a max­i­mum of three tots, or I will only have two beers.”

De­laney, who is in re­mis­sion from can­cer of the lymph nodes di­ag­nosed 10 years ago, be­lieves fruit and veg­eta­bles have con­trib­uted to his rel­a­tively good health.

“Since a young age I al­ways opted for the sim­ple foods, such as fruits and nuts. I stay clear of sug­ary foods and I don’t in­dulge in meat. I strongly be­lieve what we eat de­ter­mines whether we will have good or bad health,” he said.

“A lot of my friends who were heavy drinkers and used to go out for big din­ners have life­style dis­eases such as heart prob­lems … so this goes to show that what we put in our mouths is para­mount.”

Re­searchers led by Nasheeta Peer, from the MRC non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases unit, ques­tioned 8,000 peo­ple from five prov­inces, and found that the heav­i­est smok­ers were In­dian men, and blacks con­sumed the fat­ti­est and salti­est foods.

Peo­ple in their late 40s were screened for di­a­betes, hy­per­ten­sion and hy­per­c­holes­tero­laemia (high choles­terol), and one of the most star­tling find­ings was that black and coloured peo­ple were be­tween two and three times more at risk of di­a­betes than whites, and In­di­ans faced an even higher threat.

Fouzia Adams, 60, of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, who has been liv­ing with di­a­betes for a decade, and hy­per­ten­sion and high choles­terol for six years, said she wanted a health­ier life­style but strug­gled to af­ford it.

“My doc­tor has told me to stay away from starchy foods such as mealie meal and oats, but if I can’t eat these in the morn­ing what else can I eat?” she said.

“The diet that they rec­om­mend for us is very ex­pen­sive and is not sus­tain­able. Even though my doc­tor doesn’t rec­om­mend bread, I have to eat … and that’s what I can af­ford.”

Peer and her col­leagues found that blacks had the least healthy fat dis­tri­bu­tion, which was linked to in­sulin re­sis­tance and di­a­betes.

Black men were worst off — pos­si­bly be­cause of hav­ing more ab­dom­i­nal and vis­ceral fat.

Other find­ings in­cluded:

● In­dian men are most at risk for high choles­terol, but are the least obese;

● Obe­sity is high­est among black and coloured women;

● Hy­per­ten­sion is the most com­mon life­style dis­ease, af­fect­ing 52% of men and 49% of women; and

● About 14% of men and 13% of women have di­a­betes, and high choles­terol af­fects 32% of men and 37% of women.

Peer said fu­ture re­search could iden­tify be­havioural fac­tors that in­flu­ence the de­vel­op­ment of car­dio-meta­bolic dis­eases. “This will en­able the de­vel­op­ment of cul­tur­ally tai­lored pre­ven­tion strate­gies and may con­trib­ute to bet­ter man­age­ment of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases in the dis­ad­van­taged South African pop­u­la­tions,” she said.

When I was work­ing I didn’t care much about what I ate and as a re­sult I con­sumed a lot of take­aways be­cause I could af­ford them. I of­ten got too tired to pre­pare healthy meals at home Had I lived the way I do now at a much younger age I think I would have de­layed de­vel­op­ing the dis­ease. At a younger age we were too glad just to eat, and we didn’t care how healthy the food was

 ?? Pic­tures: Esa Alexan­der ?? Loretta Steyn of Bel­har in Cape Town has dis­cov­ered that hy­per­ten­sion has taken a heavy toll on her fam­ily.
Pic­tures: Esa Alexan­der Loretta Steyn of Bel­har in Cape Town has dis­cov­ered that hy­per­ten­sion has taken a heavy toll on her fam­ily.
 ??  ?? Robert De­laney, 82, be­lieves that fruit and veg­eta­bles have helped in his re­mis­sion from can­cer.
Robert De­laney, 82, be­lieves that fruit and veg­eta­bles have helped in his re­mis­sion from can­cer.

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