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Letters

LETTERS: Target behaviour change to tackle lifestyle diseases

nutritional dietary
We should check and improve our nutritional dietary, sleeping patterns, physical activity and stress management. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Lifestyle diseases are increasingly becoming a global health concern. Statistics indicate they are to blame for 14 million annual deaths. Those aged between 30 and 70 years have been revealed to be more susceptible to these killer diseases with 85 percent of all deaths occurring in low-end-middle-income countries.

Since majority of these countries are already struggling with abject poverty, hunger and illiteracy, the added economic strain that lifestyle diseases bring is worrying and has direct adverse implications on economic growth and development.

Kenya is experiencing a worrying epidemiological transition. Fertility rates are being dented due to swelling morbidity and mortality rates attributable to communicable disease epidemics such as diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular diseases, stress and chronic respiratory diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases and cancer have lately caused alarm across the country. Varying voices and opinions have blamed the quality of food, water and overtly our reluctance to do exercises. Science rather than opposing voices should guide and provide direction on how the diseases can be tamed.

About a decade ago, cardiovascular diseases and cancer caused slightly less than 10 percent of deaths in the country.

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Whereas technology has enabled humanity to understand diseases and provided cures, it is unnecessarily the needed gear that should be engaged in reversing some of the already existing lifestyle conditions. The answer is our willingness to change.

We should check and improve our nutritional dietary, sleeping patterns, physical activity and stress management. Since lifestyle diseases are acquired through modifiable behaviours, personalised lifestyle medicine is the fastidious panacea needed most to prevent and manage their development and prevalence.

It is the ignorance of these otherwise simple and easy to adapt practices with strict dedication and discipline that has seen the number of non-communicable cases swell.

Healthy diets are key to good nutrition and are a function of a prolonged healthy life. Eating foods with dense nutrients especially cereals in their whole grain, high-fibre form and balancing energy intake with the necessary physical activity is important in maintaining a healthy weight. Enough consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes with adequate folic acid intake alongside avoidance of high-caloric foods that have traces of trans-fats and sugar and limiting the intake of sodium and cured meats are viable interventions in improving one’s health.

In addition, the role of diet and physical activities should be fully embraced in not only maintaining the right body weight, but as a psychological remedy as well.

Regular exercising scuttles obesity and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and type 2 diabetes, osteoporotic fractures, osteoarthritis and depression, erectile dysfunction, colon and breast cancer.

Health experts have advised individuals to take between short and long regular strolls. However, greater reductions in disease risk have strongly been linked to longer durations of physical activity.

Adequate and quality sleep is equally essential in maintaining optimal health and well-being. Sleep complements healthy eating and regular exercising. When one gets enough sleep, it leads to improved work output, better concentration and less stress. It has potential to lower the likelihood of gaining more weight and with it risk of cardiovascular diseases. Sleep improves the regulation of calories in the body.

Various lines of literature also attest to the fact that sleep improves social and emotional intelligence and lowers inflammation levels besides boosting the immune system. Whereas the length and quality of sleep may vary from person to another, depending on age, it is advised that adults should sleep for at least 7 hours to have the body relaxed and renovated ready for another day.

The progress report on the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063 under goal 3 reveals that there is more that should be done by African governments to bridge the gap against the 2019 targets for healthy and well-nourished citizens. Nonetheless, it should be appreciated that mental and emotional health are desirable attainments.

Working to have the two cultivated requires feeding our body systems with nutritious foods, exercising and sleeping enough. For a longer and happier life, people should avoid intake of toxic drinks and substances such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Obed Nyangena and Tabitha Odera, researchers, Lower Kabete.

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