Many of the lifestyle diseases which are becoming increasingly common are easily avoidable. With April dedicated to Health Awareness and the commemoration of World Health Day taking place on 7 April 2012, Dr James Arens, clinical operations executive at Pro Sano Medical Scheme, urges South Africans to take a proactive stance when it comes to managing their wellbeing.
Arens says that many lifestyle diseases - including drug and alcohol abuse, cardiovascular disease, obesity and related conditions such as hypertension and cholesterol - are reported to be on the rise. That is bad news, given the strain these diseases place not only on individuals themselves, but on their families and even state health facilities. "Research released by the Medical Research Council, as well as international findings like the Lancet Report, show that as a nation, South Africa is not in great shape. The trends show a significant increase in non-communicable diseases - 5% increase for women and 29% increase for men between 2002 and 2005."
Youth's lifestyles are worrying
He points out that, in spite of this, lifestyle diseases are usually brought on by a number of risk factors, many of which are within the individual's control. For example, one of the greatest contributors to ill health is a lack of exercise and most South Africans would do well to increase their level of physical activity. "It is particularly worrying that there is a growing trend towards sedentary lifestyles among South Africa's youth," he comments.
Dietary habits are another contributing factor. It's widely known that it is preferable to choose fresh, nutritious foods over takeaways, and that part of a healthy diet includes reducing the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
Stress is a significant indicator, especially for mental illnesses which are on the increase in our fast paced society. It is therefore vital that a healthy lifestyle includes some form of stress release, whether it's maintaining a careful work-life balance, engaging in hobbies that help you unwind, or taking part in activities, like yoga, that are known to promote calm.
Regular checks are important
It also helps to undertake regular health checks. Many corporates offer wellness days, where it is possible to participate in health checks that will detect underlying health problems, like cholesterol or high blood pressure. Since these tests are conducted on site, they present an easy and accessible way to monitor your health, especially as they are usually offered free of charge. Added to this, it's critical to check in with healthcare providers regularly. This is even more important if you are aware that there is a history of a certain condition in your family, or if you are prone to certain disorders, such as heart problems.
"Prevention is always better than cure," Arens concludes. "By maintaining a balanced lifestyle, you can be sure to enjoy your greatest asset - your health - for far longer."
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