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Poor lifestyle choices preying on Kenyans

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Nutrition can be used to prevent or manage some of the ailments like diabetes, cancers, hypertension and obesity. PHOTO | PHOTOSEARCH

Nutrition can be used to prevent or manage some of the ailments like diabetes, cancers, hypertension and obesity. PHOTO | PHOTOSEARCH 

By Annie Njanja

Posted  Thursday, January 5   2017 at  15:51

In Summary

  • Why smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet and lack of exercise may be slowly killing you.

The binging festival that was the Christmas and New Year holidays has ended, but the steady diet of fast foods, fizzy soft drinks, cocktails and everything in between will probably extend well into the year.

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This unhampered diet and the lack of exercise, will make its effects on the body well known; eating away at vital organs and breeding diseases.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) or lifestyle diseases are a leading killer globally and Kenya is dangerously flirting with them as fast food chains set up shop at every corner.

NCDs manifest in form of cardiovascular ailments like heart attacks and strokes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Tobacco use, alcohol, poor diet and lack of or low physical exercises are the greatest contributors to the ailments, with three quarters of adults living in Africa facing at least three of the risk factors, said WHO in a report published two weeks ago. Women in Africa face the greatest risk.

Silent onset

Often, NCDs have a slow and silent onset, devastating complications and end in painful deaths.

“NCDs have been on the rise in the country mainly because of rapid urbanisation, lack of physical activity, poor diet and genetics in some cases.

“The greatest problem we have at the moment is lifestyle patterns where people continuously binge on alcohol, use tobacco and eat unhealthy foods,” said Head of the NCDs Division at the Ministry of Health (MoH) Joseph Kibachio.

In Kenya, the diseases account for the deaths of 100,000 people every year, putting more pressure on the frail health ministry already dealing with the burden of infectious illnesses.

The STEPwise report released by the Ministry last year states that cardiovascular illnesses and cancers are the leading causes of deaths after infectious diseases in Kenya.

Changes in lifestyle patterns, the Ministry says, were the main contributors towards the growing prevalence and the burden of the diseases is straining the economic progression and financial capacity by six per cent.

WHO is particularly concerned with the penetration of the diseases and the growing numbers of those affected in Africa.

The UN agency says that the burden of the diseases has been increasing over the last decade and is likely to surpass the death toll from infectious sickness like malaria by 2030, if nothing is done to tame the soaring numbers.

“We cannot lose sight of the enormous health dangers posed by non-communicable diseases, especially since many of these can be prevented through changes in behaviour and lifestyle,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.

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