Healthy Lifestyle month:Christiaan
February is Healthy Lifestyles Awareness Month, to remind us to keep on track and be proactive about our health.
Most of us start the year with an impressive list of New Year’s resolutions, promising to eat more healthily, exercise more regularly and stop smoking. About a month into the New Year, however, our good intentions start to fade and the daily temptations and bad habits we swore we would overcome creeps back into our diet and our visits to the gym become less frequent.
In an effort to create awareness and provide ongoing education we have put together some information regarding this topic. South Africa and National Healthy Lifestyles Day The South African Government uses National Healthy Lifestyles Awareness Day – 22 February, to galvanise all South Africans to participate in all the five elements of the healthy lifestyle campaign which are:
- promotion of good nutrition
- regular physical activity
- tobacco control
- interventions against alcohol and substance abuse
- promotion of safe sexual behaviour.
The Health Lifestyles Awareness Day tackles the dangers of obesity, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity as risk factors, by promoting health and wellbeing among individuals, communities and populations.
South Africans statistically exude the highest numbers in the world when it comes to the increasing incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Experts say this is largely due to our increasingly unhealthy lifestyles that combine poor diets and a lack of physical activity with smoking and drinking.
Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization) interchangeably are diseases that potentially can be prevented by changes in diet, environment, and lifestyle, such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, and osteoporosis, more commonly known as Non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
A NCD is a medical condition or disease that is non-infectious or non-transmissible. NCDs can refer to chronic diseases which last for long periods of time and progress slowly. The 4 main types of noncommunicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
As per the Aon Hewitt Global Medical Trend Rate Report for 2016, NCDs (high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol) were identified as the biggest contributors of the adverse experience driving high medical inflation. NCDs are directly linked to modern lifestyles, and their incidence can be significantly reduced through modification of individual behaviors. Influencing these behaviors represents both a challenge and an opportunity for employers. The most common wellness and health promotion initiatives being undertaken are detection, education programs and coaching programs.
Major risk factors leading to the major NCDs in South Africa include: Tabaco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity.
A 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicated that approximately 2 out of 5 deaths in SA are attributable to NCDs. The major NCDs in South Africa are: Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer.
Chronic diseases of lifestyle are skyrocketing in South Africa because of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and other lifestyle factors. Changes in lifestyle can prevent you from developing these diseases and can help you avoid the worst complications if you already have such a condition.
Tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA):
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA) wants to make change easier for you and have listed seven simple suggestions to get you on the road to healthier living – starting with baby steps:
- Switch to sugar free drinks instead of your usual fizzy cold drink – you’ll save a massive seven teaspoons of sugar per can!
- Swop full cream milk for fat free milk, and cut your fat intake by 7.5g.
- If you use butter or hard brick margarine, change to soft tub margarine, which will replace saturated (unhealthy) fats with unsaturated (healthy) fats.
- Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily – why not choose raw carrots as a snack over a packet of crisps, or eat some grapes instead of a pudding.
- Do 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. Remember that exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym. Perhaps you can walk to the shops instead of taking the car or bus, or dance around your living room. You could catch up with a friend over a walk instead of a coffee. Even cleaning the house and gardening can count towards your fitness goals – the aim is to be breathless, but not speechless.
- Drink more water – as a guideline, men should aim to drink around 12 glasses of fluid a day, and women should drink around nine glasses. A glass is 250ml. Water is ideal, but moderate intake of tea and coffee can also count towards the total amount. Try to avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks and large amounts of fruit juice.
- If you smoke, consider quitting – smoking almost triples the risk of heart disease. It narrows blood vessels and expands blood clots, reducing blood flow to the heart and brain, which directly leads to heart attack and stroke. Quitting isn’t easy for most people, find support, stay motivated, and consider using quitting aids such as nicotine patches or gums. The benefit is twofold as you also save money.
Enjoy the lighter side of living healthy – and have a bit of fun!
Sources: Aon Hewitt Global Medical Trend Rate Report for 2016, the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) Annual Report 2014-2015 and the World Health Organisation (WHO).