Doctors warn of increasing lifestyle diseases

By Michael Oriedo
Most people are ending up with severe cases of non-communicable diseases because they do not see the need to visit health facilities or take medicine.

Health experts note that the nature of diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension, especially in their initial stages, do not compel people to seek medical attention.

“These diseases are not like malaria where one would have high fever and general body weakness, therefore be forced to visit a hospital. The fact that one can work normally since they do not feel sick makes them ignore medical attention,” says Dr Steven van de Vijver, a senior research officer at African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC).

Weakened bodies
Van de Vijver observes that many people, despite being informed they are developing hypertension or diabetes, will not reduce risk factors.

“For lifestyle diseases, finding out that you are at risk is frequently not motivating enough to make one go for treatment or take medicine. This is why many people seek medication only when the diseases have weakened the body,” says Van de Vijver.

The situation is worsened by rising cases of misdiagnosis. People take long to discover they are suffering from these diseases.

Kenya is experiencing a rise in cases of lifestyle diseases, mainly diabetes, hypertension and cancer. The diseases, according to Van de Vijver, are related because they share risk factors.

“These factors include smoking, alcoholism, poor diet, lack of physical exercise and age,” he noted.

Risk factors
The doctor warns that Kenya is likely to experience an increase in rising cases of cancer among the poor.
“Just like diabetes and hypertension are affecting many poor people, the trend will be experienced with cancer. This is because poor people are striving to adopt lifestyles of the rich, which comprise of lack of proper diet and physical activities,” he said.

Besides that, the doctor noted there are many unregulated products and foods in the market that contain harmful chemicals, high sugar and high cholesterol levels.

Van de Vijver believes that to fight lifestyle diseases, people need to be motivated to seek medical attention and take medicine.

“Money is an issue, especially for the poor, but they can be motivated by being in support groups, receiving reminder SMSs, taking services closer to them and reducing the cost of drugs,” he said.