‘The big five-oh’ is often when chronic conditions
finally make themselves known.
We look at a few of these conditions, and give you tips
on how to prevent them before it’s too late.
Hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) is behind one in every two strokes and two in every five heat attacks. The highest rate of high BP reported among people aged 50 and older, reports the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa (HSFSA).
It’s a ‘silent killer’, with few signs to alert you – more than half the people who have it don’t know that they do. When BP becomes very high, you may have headaches, visual disturbance, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, nosebleeds and sleepiness. But don’t leave it until then to act, urges HSFSA CEO Pamela Naidoo.
Outsmart it: Have your BP measured at least once a year. You can do this at your nearest Clicks Clinic or with your regular healthcare provider. If your BP is a more than a little high, your doctor may prescribe medication.
You can help prevent a further increase with lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy, balanced diet focused on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts; and limit sugary drinks, sweets, red meat and salt. Get active to help manage stress and achieve a healthy weight – losing even 2-5kg can help reduce BP, says the HSFSA.
This is the second leading cause of death in South Africa (after TB), and the leading cause of death for women, says Michael Brown, clinical consultant at the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology in Joburg.
It is not yet known how to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes, which affects 90% of people with diabetes, has been linked to lifestyle factors and excessive, unhealthy body fat, he says – especially foods that are high in calories or processed, with hidden sugars.
Outsmart it: You can cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing as little as 5% of your body weight (3kg, if you’re 60kg) and exercising for 30 minutes a day. “Follow a balanced, healthy eating plan with emphasis on portion control,” says Gabi Steenkamp, a Cape Town dietitian with a special interest in treating diabetes.
With this degenerative disease, there is wear and tear on your joints, as cartilage covering the ends of your bones is damaged or breaks down. It develops slowly as you age, usually in the joints at the ends of the fingers of one hand, says the Arthritis Foundation of South Africa (AFSA).
There’s generally little or no swelling, but pain, stiffness and decreased movement, and sometimes bony spurs develop. Being overweight puts greater stress on joints, and fat tissue can produce destructive proteins that promote inflammation.
Outsmart it: Help keep osteoarthritis at bay by maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet and 30 minutes a day of moderate, low impact exercise that’s joint friendly. The AFSA suggests swimming, walking, cycling, yoga and tai chi.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that gradually destroys your sharp central vision, and cataracts are the leading causes of blindness in people over 55 in the developed world, reports the American Optometric Association.
Both conditions creep up on you. The most common early sign of AMD is blurred vision (if you have ‘dry AMD’) or straight lines appearing crooked (‘wet AMD’). Signs of cataracts are blurry, filmy vision, sensitivity to bright light and glare (seeing a halo around lights).
Outsmart them: Lifestyle changes may help lower your odds of developing cataracts and AMD. Eat a healthy diet high in green leafy vegetables and fish, says Durban ophthalmic surgeon Dr Anthony Zaborowski.
Don’t smoke, watch your weight, get exercise, and maintain normal blood sugar (if you develop diabetes, it’s a risk factor for both AMD and cataracts). Have a complete eye exam every two years.
As you age, if your levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol are too high, it builds up on the walls of your arteries as plaque, hardening and narrowing them, and restricting blood flow to the heart. Signs of what’s then called artherosclerosis can include chest pain, shortness of breath, and coldness, numbness, or weakness, especially in your limbs.
But there may be no symptoms until plaque breaks off and forms a blood clot that blocks an artery, triggering a heart attack or stroke.
Outsmart it: Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly through your health professional or a Clicks pharmacy. All adults should have a fasting lipogram at least once in young adulthood (from age 20), says the HSFSA.
If your cholesterol levels are normal, the test should be repeated in a few years. If you have diabetes, kidney disease or are overweight, have your cholesterol levels monitored frequently by your health professional. If your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels are high or you’re at a high risk of heart disease, your cholesterol levels should be checked every six months.
A healthy diet and daily exercise can help lower bad cholesterol, as can medication. Large studies now suggest dietary cholesterol found in animal foods, including eggs and dairy, has little effect on most people’s blood cholesterol.
“Up to seven eggs a week can make a healthy contribution to a balanced diet,” says East London dietitian Tirsa Bezuidenhout. “But eat them as an alternative protein to meat at a meal, not in addition.”
There is plenty of evidence that the saturated fatty acids in animal fats, trans fats (in processed and fried foods) and sugar (converted to fat and stored when you eat too much of it) increase cardiovascular disease, so limit your intake. Soluble fibre (oats, legumes, veggies, fruit) can be especially beneficial in lowering bad cholesterol, so enjoy them.
Article – courtesy of Clicks
Author: Glynis Horning
Image – courtesy of Freepik
<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/photos/food’>Food photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com</a>
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