Bad eating can kill you
ABOUT 195 people, most of them young, are dying from heart disease every day.
This revelation appears in a medical research report from the Africa Strategic Research Corporation and the Human Sciences Research Council.
The rapid increase in heart disease among youth has been attributed to manageable factors that include poor eating habits, which are largely influenced by easy access to fast foods, as well as inactive lifestyles, physiological stress and dependence on substances such as alcohol and tobacco in cigarettes.
Contrary to the popular belief that most of these ailments affect only older people, heart conditions are emerging in young people, often with irreversible complications.
As the country ends Youth Month on Saturday, Dr Tshidi Gule, a medical director of the Medispace Wellness Institute in Rivonia, Johannesburg, explains how our modern lifestyles damage health.
Gule looks at the food that people eat daily, especially in winter, such as fat-cakes, hamburgers and chips.
She says that eating a fat-cake the size of a tennis ball might have twice the amount of fat that an adult needs for two days.
Gule says that fat-cakes contain fat and are made from refined flour, which is high in carbohydrates.
Another example is that of a person who eats a hamburger for lunch. In one meal, they consume twice the amount of fat their bodies need in one day.
Due to the lack of access to accurate information on lifestyles, many youngsters are dying from ailments such as obesity, which are preventable.
Gule says: "Many people skip a morning meal and wait until they are hungry, when they eat a huge amount of food. We eat way too many calories in one meal. Your body cannot break down the food fast enough.
"It ends up storing it, which is why we have an obesity problem. Your system is overwhelmed," Gule says.
However, she says heart disease is just the tip of the iceberg. Those who do seek medical intervention generally do so too late, when their condition is irreversible.
Gule's biggest worry is that given their unhealthy lifestyle, many people will die before reaching the age of 50. "It is sad that life expectancy has dropped below 50 in the past 10 years," she says.
"This is not because of HIV/Aids as is always reported. It is also because of lifestyle diseases. Traditionally, these diseases affect old people who are over 50. But now it happens to people who are as young as 20."
Although the use of alcohol is generally higher among young males than young females, the small increase observed in the past five years is consistent for both genders.
The South African Demographic and Health Survey found that in 1998, 35.5% of males in SA aged 15 to 24 reported that they had used alcohol compared with 15.8% of their female counterparts.
The number of young people who used alcohol in 2003 was highest in the Western Cape (46.1%), followed by Northern Cape, Gauteng, North West, Eastern Cape and Free State.
Gule says healthy lifestyles are affordable and easily achievable.
Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle is a manifestation of one's values, and a lasting act of self-love and care. "To consume a huge amount of food at one go, mixed with high fat, is going to result in high blood pressure and heart disease," Gule warns.