The Indigo Wellness Index, one of the most comprehensive health indices covering 191 countries across the world, has announced South Africa as the unhealthiest country on earth.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that South Africans between ages of 30 and 70 have a 26% probability of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is basically imperative for all South Africans. The long-term benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle can make a significant difference in preventing these diseases, reducing stress and improving general well-being.
The important thing to remember is that living a healthy lifestyle does not mean hours of training at the gym and eating only salad leaves, it is about making easy-to-manage healthy choices in your day-to-day living.
Those could include getting rid of junk food from your diet, taking the stairs instead of the lifts, increasing your fruit by one, drinking one extra glass of water or quitting smoking. That first step is the most important part, then things will become easier and before you even realise living a healthy lifestyle will come naturally.
“Adapting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to come with expensive gym memberships and unreal expectations – there are some realistic ways that can bring good changes to your body, mind, mood and attitude. A long-lasting improvement is possible with consistency and discipline”, says Sibonile Dube, Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Africa Cluster at Novartis.
Below are some health tips that can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Cut down on sugar
Cut back on the amount of sugar that you would regularly add to foods, such as cereal, and drinks such as tea and coffee. Stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages, go for sugar free or low-calorie drinks. When shopping, compare food labels and go for the products with the lowest amounts of added sugars.
Lower your salt intake
Taking in too much salt increases blood pressure which can lead to heart disease and strokes. Avoid adding salt to foods – instead use herbs, spice, lemon and other salt-free seasoning blends. Eat fresh poultry, fish and lean meat rather than processed, canned or smoked meats.
Limit alcohol intake
Too much alcohol is bad for your health because it can damage your internal organs – specifically the liver. Heavy drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and digestive problems.
Excessive drinking also increases your risks of getting cancer and cardiovascular disease. An occasional glass of wine isn’t a cause for concern, but the cumulative effects of drinking alcohol can take its toll on your body.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables
Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health. This is because fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants, minerals, fiber and vitamins which can protect you from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Exercising helps with lowering the risk of some diseases. The health benefits of regular physical activity should not be ignored as they have a positive effect to the body’s overall well-being.
Walking is just as good as jogging/running for heart health. In terms of heart health, walking for an hour is roughly equivalent to a half-hour run.
Eat less processed meats
Processed meat is considered unhealthy because it has been linked to diseases like, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Go for healthier options such as salmon, chicken and hake.
This is very important especially when you live in a hot place. You need at least 8 glasses of water a day, but this number increases when you sweat a lot due to physical activity or the climate. Limit intake of beverages that can cause dehydration like alcoholic drinks and those that contain caffeine.