Prevention is Better (and Cheaper) than Cure
Staying healthy is much cheaper than being unable to work or needing to visit the clinic often due to the complications of preventable illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes.
Western Cape Government Health will kick off with a two-month campaign to promote the prevention of chronic diseases in patients. Chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes account for five of the ten top causes of death in South Africa. Due to the lack of initial symptoms of many chronic diseases, and because patients do not have regular, voluntary health checks, many patients with chronic diseases seek help only once cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease have reached an acute stage, or once the disease has long-term complications. Treating an illness once it has reached this stage is not only expensive but also denies people the benefits of taking care of their condition at an early stage or preventing further complications altogether.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “From October till December, Western Cape Government Health is running an awareness campaign at all our health facilities to ensure that patients suffering from chronic diseases are aware of their situation and what they can do to reduce the symptoms. Please use the opportunity and visit your local community health centre. We offer the service but it is your responsibility to have a check up. In this way we can be Better Together.”
The Cape Winelands District will focus on two major chronic illnesses during the next two months, namely diabetes and hypertension (also known high blood pressure).
Diabetes (Type ii) is completely preventable if one leads a healthy lifestyle.
Many people are unaware of the complications which can arise from undiagnosed or unmanaged diabetes:
- Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in South Africa; an annual eye check can reduce the incidence of this complication by 60% – 70%.
- Foot problems which can lead to eventual amputation are a common side effect of diabetes and a leading cause of disability in diabetic patients; an annual foot exam can reduce its incidence by 50% – 60%.
Good lifestyle interventions for people who have a high risk of developing diabetes can reduce its incidence by 35% – 58%.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Although there are illnesses that contribute to hypertension, such as diabetes and kidney disease, the majority of cases can be prevented or easily managed if lifestyle changes are made early in the diagnosis.
Hypertension, which is caused by smoking, stress, excessive alcohol use, being overweight, unhealthy eating, and a lack of exercise, may lead to cardiovascular (heart) trouble and strokes. Many patients who have suffered a stroke are unable to return to work and need to be looked after by family.
Steps to a healthy body:
- Exercise for half an hour daily; if you choose to walk, you need to walk fast, that is, so that you cannot sing at the same time! Exercise also helps to relieve stress. It is a good idea to form a walking group with a few friends and walk at the same time each day.
- Cut the amount of salt you use in your food; if you currently add a large pinch of salt try using half that amount for a week or two, and then halve the amount again.
- Stop smoking; speak to your healthcare worker about ways of quitting. One of the first ways to stop is not to allow yourself or anyone else to smoke in your home.
- Women should have no more than two small glasses of wine a day and men no more than three. Try not to have any alcohol for a few days of the week. If you find it hard not to drink, speak to a healthcare worker about ways to stop drinking.
- Always cut all visible fat off meat before you cook it; this includes chicken skin as well.
If you are already on medication for a preventable chronic disease, remember that you can still live a healthy, full life by taking your medication and following a good lifestyle.
NOTE: Statistics taken from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Western Cape Government Health Statistics 2009/2010.