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Research shows South Africans are in denial about their unhealthy habits

by , 07 August 2013

Findings by the Human Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council show South Africans are at risk of diabetes, strokes, heart attacks and deadly cancers. What's even scarier is that most South Africans think they're healthy. And this means they're not likely to change their habits. Read to discover the details of the study and what you can do to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases.

Two-thirds of women in South Africa are overweight or obese…Our preschool children are among the fattest in the world…And a quarter of adults eat too much sugar and fat… Yet, we think we are healthy, TimesLive reports.

That’s according to research conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council. The study was aimed at investigating the ‘emerging epidemic of non-infectious or non-communicable [lifestyle] disease’ and evaluate the state of health in South Africa.

Poor eating habits, sleep deprivation and inactive lifestyles have all been linked to the rise in lifestyle diseases

Lifestyle diseases such as type II diabetes, hypertension, strokes, certain types of cancer and heart disease are a huge burden to South Africa’s medical system and they’ll continue to be in the years to come, reports Health 24.

So it’s no surprise then that, according to TimesLive, that out of the more than 25,000 people were surveyed last year, from 8,078 of them had ‘biomarkers’ of these diseases.

Here are some of the key findings outlined in the TimesLive report:

  • The waists of six out of 10 women older than 50 are 88cm or more (an extra-large size), which puts them at significant risk of lifestyle disease, but a third of children report having no food to take to school;
  • 22% of children aged between two and five are overweight or obese. The figure is 12% in the US;
  • In the homes of 33.9% of those aged 10 to 14 there’s no food for breakfast;
  • 18.3% of children have no one to help them make lunch for school;
  • One in two women and one in three men under the age of 40 failed a fitness test in which they had to run up and down a step; and
  • One in four households goes to bed hungry.

“The HSRC says the population is not as healthy as it might believe because many might not have been diagnosed with disease or post-traumatic stress disorder,” says the TimesLive.

While lifestyle diseases are on the rise, the good news is you can do something about them if you take steps to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s what you can do to stay healthy

According to the MayoClinic, physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as a daily brisk walk for just 30 minutes can help you live a healthier life.

Walking increases your body’s metabolism, which burns calories. This increases the conversion of fat cells to energy and builds muscle tissue, which in turn burns more calories, says FSPHealth.

While the general goal is to aim for 30 minutes of walking, it’s OK to start slowly especially if you haven’t been exercising regularly. You might start with five minutes a day the first week and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes.
In addition to daily walks, it’s important to also take steps to eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. Make an effort to lead a healthy lifestyle starting today to avoid serious health conditions later on.

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