Chronic diseases and cancers are becoming more prevalent among South Africans, this is according to Discovery Health. In 2017, members of the medical scheme with at least one chronic condition rose by 5.6% to 642,410 members. Instances of diabetes and hypertension doubled between 2008 and 2017.
Numbers like this are particularly frightening. There are ways to reduce your risk of chronic disease and they all start with lifestyle change. Being willing to make changes in your life that will improve your health and wellbeing and also lessen your chances of contracting a chronic disease, is a choice. One that all South Africans should make to ensure longevity and improved quality of life.
Centres for disease control all over the world reiterate these points that have been scientifically proven to reduce instances of chronic disease. Here are three primary ways to reduce your risk of chronic disease:
1. Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is done by eating well and exercising regularly. There are no short cuts or special pills you can take to make it happen, it is only done through adopting a lifelong healthy approach to your personal wellbeing.
According to the World Health Organization, the lack of daily physical activity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. In order to prevent this becoming a reality, it’s important to live an active lifestyle.
An active lifestyle involves being physically active every day as well as partaking in an exercise regime most days during each week. Global recommendations state that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to do the following:
- At least 150 minutes of
moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week
- This can be broken down into 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five times a week
- Which can even be performed in 10-minute bouts of aerobic activity completed 3 times a day
- Or do at least 75 minutes of
vigorous-intensity physical activity in a week
- This could be broken down into five 15-minute sessions per week
- Or three 25-minute sessions, however you can fit it into your lifestyle
In order to ensure you are meeting the demands of your body, focus needs to be placed on energy intake and the quality of food you eat.
Include These Foods:
- Clean water daily
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, concentrating on different types
- Eat a range of different grains, especially wholegrains and high fibre cereals. Include foods such as brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta etc.
- Lean meats, skinless chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, legumes, beans, seeds, nuts
Exclude These Foods:
- Foods high in trans-fats such as: pizza, deep-fried foods, chips, burgers, fries and packaged foods
- Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods including: biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolates, doughnuts, pastries and pies
- Foods with high levels of added salt such as: convenience meals, stocks, canned foods, processed meats (viennas, polonies and salami) etc.
- Drinks containing loads of sugar such as: fizzy drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks
- Limit your intake of alcohol and remove it from your diet if pregnant or breastfeeding
2. Reducing Your Stress Levels
You’ve probably heard the term “stress is a killer” thrown around loosely. However, it can be a contributing factor to contracting a chronic disease, so it is a relevant statement. The lifestyles we lead introduce many stressful situations that are often unavoidable, such as the following:
- Lack of proper sanitation or utilities
- Cost of living
You can choose how you deal with stressful situations. By being mindful and practicing mindfulness, you are better equipped to deal with these situations in a calm manner. What would normally be a stressful situation for others can then become something that you are easily able to cope with.
- Mindfulness practice can be as simple as sitting for ten minutes each day before your day begins, reflecting on the day before and preparing for the day ahead
- Meditation is an exceptional mindfulness practice that teaches you to be aware of your surroundings and circumstances, without becoming consumed by them
- Yoga is another mindfulness practice that teaches you to approach life without letting your mind control how you react to life’s events
- Journaling daily will help you deal with external events and stressful emotions. Simply sitting quietly and writing about what’s on your mind is a great way to help you purge those feelings before they build up into stress
3. Stopping Smoking And Avoiding Alcohol
These two usually go hand in hand because they are recreational (or everyday) habits that don’t contribute to your health or wellbeing in any positive way. Smoking is a risk factor for all cancers and is the single-most important way to prevent cardiovascular disease. It is also a contributing factor for other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Stopping smoking or not starting smoking in the first place is one of the foremost ways you can reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Alcohol consumption should be reduced or stopped entirely. Studies show that continued use of alcohol or binge drinking will eventually take its toll on the organs of the body can lead to chronic disease and cancers. Binge drinking is classified as four or more drinks on one occasion for women, and five or more drinks on one occasion for men.
Moderate alcohol consumption or drinking every now and then should not increase your risk, but excessive use over time will.