It’s a cliché because it’s true: anything you achieve will be compromised without good health. That’s why the most important resolution for 2024 should be taking control of your health, encourages Dr Siame Chido of Kena Health.
Kena Health’s app allows people to access healthcare easily, connecting users with medical professionals for a virtual consultation at an affordable price.
This innovation is especially significant in a region looking to improve the availability of quality healthcare.
Dr Chido points out that many people neglect their health until it’s too late. She encourages a change in attitude, suggesting that by understanding the basics of health, individuals can actively monitor their well-being and enjoy life more fully.
To better understand what signs your body might be showing you, she suggests keeping an eye on blood pressure, a key indicator of heart health.
With over one-third of adults in South Africa battling high blood pressure, responsible for a high percentage of strokes and heart attacks, monitoring it becomes essential.
“Too many of us don’t give our health a second thought until there’s a problem and we need a doctor,” she says.
“By changing that mindset and learning about our health basics, we can monitor our health proactively and ensure that we enjoy our lives to the maximum.”
Dr Chido identifies the following top tips for understanding what your body is telling you and how to keep it healthy:
Know where you stand with your health
There are certain things that doctors look at first when assessing a patient. One of these is blood pressure because it offers a way of assessing cardiovascular function.
More than one in three adults in South Africa live with high blood pressure or hypertension, which is responsible for 50% of all strokes and 40% of all heart attacks.
Another important frontline check should be the warning signs of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common manifestation of this disease in adults, and its prevalence has risen globally in the past several years, seemingly linked to unhealthy eating habits. In South Africa, its prevalence has more than doubled from 4.5% in 2010 to 12.7% in 2019.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has a helpful list of symptoms.
One's weight is also a useful gauge of overall health and should be monitored regularly. It is worth discussing your goal weight with your medical practitioner.
Obesity is a significant public health issue in South Africa and its prevalence has been increasing over the years.
According to data from the WHO, South Africa has the highest rates of obesity in sub-Saharan Africa with alarming rates among adults and children. It’s estimated that roughly 31% of men and 68% of women in the country are obese.
Why obesity matters
Being overweight can increase your risk of having the following health problems:
Heart disease – extra weight puts strain on the heart.
High cholesterol levels can increase the danger of heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure.
Psychological problems (obese people may feel very insecure about their weight).
Prioritise your annual check-ups. Life happens, as people say, somewhat sadly, said Dr Chido.
Before your diary fills up, get all those annual check-ups scheduled. Appointments for routine dental check-ups and pap smears. Mammograms and prostate checks when over 50 should be included.
“Small lifestyle choices, big changes.” Lifestyle choices affect our health at every level. Getting more sleep, regular exercise, eating healthily and, most importantly, setting aside some time just to be – all these are conducive to a happy, healthy, and mentally sound life.
Connecting with nature is also a prime reliever of stress. Especially considering that one in three South Africans experiences a mental illness and 75% of them are unable to receive treatment.
An important principle here is that you are supposed to be enjoying life. So, for example, choose an exercise that you enjoy, and generally avoid things that you don’t enjoy when you have the choice.
Exercise beyond weight management
Regarding exercise, the latest thinking is that effectiveness does not correlate with pain and sweat.
A minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week – brisk walking will do – plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two days of weight training.
Seek help soon. If you do experience any symptoms or notice any deterioration in your physical or mental health, it makes much more sense to seek professional medical help rather than trying to self-medicate.
In many instances, delaying treatment can lead to suboptimal outcomes.
“These are all small steps, but cumulatively they add up to a routine that prioritises what does you good, making it more likely you will identify problems early on. They will multiply your chances of a long life,” says Dr Chido.