The growing trend of excess adiposity (body fat), especially around the waistline, is threatening the health of many South Africans.
The dark side of a growing waistline and resultant overweight and obesity, is that it is associated with an array of dangerous health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). These two examples are infamously known to be a silent killers and maimers among many South Africans.
Excess central adiposity linked with diabetes
The month of November is marked as Diabetes Awareness Month, but it is clear that we still have a long way to go when it comes to raising awareness of this common condition. According to a recent report released by Statistics South Africa, people (mainly men) in urban areas tend to be slightly more overweight compared to people staying in rural areas.
One fairly crude measure (in isolation) of adult adiposity is that of the Body Mass Index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) points out that a healthy BMI ratio is anything between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2 (22.9 kg/m2 in Asian people).
Alarmingly, 73% of women in the Western Cape (71% in KZN, 69% in the Eastern Cape and Free State, 69% in North West and 66% in Gauteng) exceed this healthy range making them overweight or obese and at risk of developing conditions such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
Men weighed in lower, but a significant proportion remained above a healthy BMI ratio with 44 % of Western Cape men exceeding the healthy BMI range (35% in KZN, 34% in Gauteng and 32% in the Northern Cape).
As many as 50% of people who have diabetes are unaware of their status
Poverty, fast-paced urban lifestyles, lack of sleep and easy availability of fast, energy-dense foods increase the risk of South Africans adopting poor eating habits that increase their chances of being overweight and, in a domino effect, of developing diabetes. Of the 425 million adults worldwide who have diabetes, as many as 50% of these are not aware of it (two-thirds of South Africans!).
Not knowing the risk factors for or the symptoms of diabetes or not going for regular screening can leave you with a hefty price to pay. People who wait until it is too late can end up with preventable complications. 8000 new cases of blindness and 2000 new cases of amputations occur due to diabetes each year in South Africa, the majority of which could have been prevented.
Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk
Prevention is always better than cure, which is why changing your lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, excess adiposity and other cardiovascular problems. Changing what you eat and becoming more physically active are two ways in which you can start a healthier lifestyle. Centres such as CDE provide people with much-needed care and information when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle for people who have diabetes.
The World Health Organisation recommends that children from the ages of five to 17 years old should get a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise a day. Adults should ensure that they exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Getting your family and friends involved and finding interesting ways to play and exercise can make it easier for you to maintain this decision and stick to a fitness routine.
Consuming too much salt can also lead to health complications, which is why it is vital to move away from adding salt to your food. It is also recommended that you reduce your intake of sugar to less than six teaspoons a day and add a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to boost your overall health.