It’s a statistic to die for: South Africa is amongst the top three countries in the world in obesity rankings, after the United States of America and Great Britain. And then it gets worse.
In a recent survey conducted by the SA Medical Research Council, it was found that 61% of the South African population is overweight, obese or morbidly obese. In addition, 70% of all South African women over the age of 35 were overweight or obese with 33% of black women exposed to the greatest risk and a quarter of coloured, white and Indian women following suit. In contrast, 18% of white men over the age of 35 are obese, followed by 9% percent of Indian, 8% percent of coloured, and 6% percent of black men.With an estimated 2,8 million people annually dying as a result of being overweight or obese, it’s time for South Africans to take stock, says the Self-Medication Association of South Africa (SMASA).
To mark International Self-Care Day on 24 July, SMASA challenges South Africans with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 and higher to help reduce their risk by losing weight through staying active and making smart food choices, thereby improving health and quality of life.
“It’s the ideal opportunity to take care of your and your family’s health by giving your health – and your medicine cabinet - a health check,” says Allison Vienings, SMASA executive director. SMASA is an independent organisation committed to promoting responsible self-care and self-medication to the South African public.
She says SMASA urges people with a BMI of 25 and higher to take obesity, the ‘Silent Killer’, very seriously, because of the number of diseases with little or no noticeable symptoms in the early stages associated with it. These diseases include, amongst others, hypertension (raised blood pressure), hyperlipi¬daemia (high cholesterol levels), Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various forms of cancer.
There are numerous reasons mentioned and debated as to why the South African obesity statistics look so dire.
One of the biggest scapegoats seems to be the increasing Westernisation and urbanisation of the South African population over the past few decades, resulting in people living a more sedentary lifestyle and an increase in the consumption of fast food with its extremely high salt, sugar and fat content. Added to that, South Africans’ alcohol consumption is amongst the highest in the world.
Further, 49% of South Africans claim to do no exercise and 71% have never attempted to cut down on their food intake. Worse than that, 78% of obese and 52% of morbidly obese South Africans believe they are perfectly healthy and only 47% of South Africans believe that exercise and fitness are critical to good health.
However, the good news is that, in most instances one can lose weight and prevent the non-communicable diseases related with obesity through dietary and lifestyle changes. In instances where a particular weight loss or exercise programme are options to consider, it’s important to consult with a healthcare practitioner before deciding to do so.
SMASA advocates that the key to feeling good 24/7 involves being vigilant about making healthy lifestyle choices, and to use self-monitoring and self-management. “With so much self-care knowledge readily available, we are well-equipped to take responsibility for own health, and save money”, says Vienings.”