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Lifestyle change will keep away chronic diseases

By Nancy Muyoka

Lifestyle diseases are diseases associated with the way a person or group of people live. Regular physical activity helps prevent some of these diseases like obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, colon cancer, and premature mortality.

Some of the risk factors associated with lifestyle diseases include sex, age and genetic traits. Behaviours that are risk factors to lifestyle diseases are poor dietary habit, lack of exercise, alcoholism, smoking, stress and obesity.


Is a condition of a sustained elevated arterial blood pressure due to multiple risk factors. It can lead to stroke, coronary heart diseases, and congestive heart failure. Signs are frequent headaches, dizziness, impaired vision, shortness of breath, breath failure, and gastrointestinal disturbances.


Poor diet and blood pressure

There is an association between dietary sodium intake and blood pressure. When sodium is taken in excess, more water is drawn into the circulation increasing the volume of water pumped, thus increasing blood pressure. Some of the readily refined foods preserved with sodium bicarbonates like sausages, smokies, canned meat, and sandwich brawns are in this category. Good news is that high blood pressure can be managed through medication and adherence to recommended diet, such as:

• Reduce sodium intake to achieve gradual weight loss in case of overweight

• Adequate intake of potassium

• Maintaining normal haemoglobin level

• Low fat intake

• Intake of unsaturated fats rather than saturated fats


It is a metabolic condition due to inadequate insulin or lack of insulin in the body. It is characterised by decreased ability of the tissues to use carbohydrates, accompanied by changes in the metabolism of fats, proteins, and electrolytes, the disorder is due to deficiency or diminished effectiveness of insulin hormones.

The major cause is poor dietary intake. especially high intake of refined and processed foods. It can result in the removal of pancreas, cancer of the pancreas, abnormal concentration of certain hormone, and the infection of the pancreas.

The main aim in the treatment of diabetes is to maintain normal blood sugar level, which helps prevent the chronic complications of long term uncontrolled hypoglycaemic. Treatment may involve dietary medications alone, dietary modification and insulin, or dietary modification and oral hypoglycaemic drugs, depending on the type of diabetes and condition of the client. Patients are also advised to maintain high level of hygiene , especially in the feet and always protect them to prevent occurrence of wounds, which mostly leads to amputations.



It is the most feared killer disease in Kenya. It occurs due to formation of malignant cells in a certain part of the body. The common types of cancers in Kenya are; breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the stomach, and throat cancer.

The major cause of cancer has not yet been established, but it has been highly associated with poor dietary habits, specifically the intake of highly processed and refined foods that are preserved with certain chemicals that when taken in excess, become toxic to the body.

Management of cancer

•     Increasing intake of high biological value proteins to replace the worn out tissues for formation of new tissues

•     Increase intake of fluids, especially when one is on either chemotherapy treatment or radiotherapy

•     High intake of fruits and vegetables to boost their immune system since they are immune-suppressed. For stomach cancer, fruits and vegetables with high fibre should be avoided depending on the stage of the disease, as they may rapture the wound in the stomach

•     High intake of carbohydrate is also recommended to provide energy, as the patients tend to be weak especially after the therapies

•     Intake of unsaturated fats but in adequate amount is also advised, especially when the patient is wasted

•     Depending on the state of the patient, supplements can be recommended

All these diet recommendations should go hand in hand with proper medication.


Obesity is a condition where excess fats are deposited in the body and the person has a BMI (Basal Metabolic Index) of more than 24.5.

It is common among adults but also occurs in children. It is a risk factor to many cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidaemia, diabetes type2, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, stroke and heart failure.

Causes include:

•     Genetics

•     Lack of exercise

•     Poor dietary habits

•     High intake of saturated fats with cholesterol

•     Poor feeding habits like eating more times than expected

Obesity can be managed by:

•     Exercising

•     Increase intake of high fibre foods

•     Practicing good feeding habits

•     Avoid grilled and frying foods

•     Include high intake of fruits and vitamins to boost the immune

•     Drink at least eight glasses of water a day

The writer is a nutrition consultant at Eatright Health and Wellness Centre.

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