Avoid the silent killer: Be active, watch your diet

Surjit Singh Flora

The government plans to eliminate trans fats — the most unhealthy, mostly found in solidified cooking oils. The World Health Organization (WHO) says such fats increase the risk of heart disease, a leading killer of adults in Kenya. WHO puts diabetes prevalence in the country at 3.3 per cent, to rise to 4.5 per cent by 2025. But two-thirds of diabetics may be undiagnosed.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death. Diabetes mellitus is fourth. This condition is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia and disturbances in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. Type 1 (TIDM); type 2 (TIIDM), (at 85 per cent); and gestational (five per cent) are the main types. They affect 347 million people. In 2008, there were 1.3 million cases of diabetes, expected to rise to more than two million by 2030. Diabetes is an epidemic in countries with low incomes.

South Asians’ and Kenyans’ preference for oil-rich food with lots of refined carbohydrate and high sugar consumption such as samosas, Pakoras and sweets have been blamed for many an illness, including diabetes and heart diseases, but experts say such food habits alone may not explain the reason for high incidence of cardiovascular disease.

And I won’t be surprised if the rate was higher in women. Many women are thin but being thin (under-nourished) is not equal to being fit. They don’t have a regular fitness regime integrated into their routine. Most of them think household chores suffice for exercise and that being fat is being healthy.

Our food inherently has a high glycemic index (lots of rice/ chapatis) and we often top it up with a lot of ghee butter and oil. In town, older women will make a woman drink a cupful of molten ghee (butter) after the birth of a baby.

Gym and fitness

The diet “prescribed” by oldies is mostly ghee for a pregnant woman. The weight women gain after childbirth, they never lose. They lose muscle tone. “Don’t lift that; it’ll knot up your stomach” is a common caution. “Don’t eat a mango; you’ll get a miscarriage” is another.

In Kenyan, a woman works all day but many of them finish their work in few hours and then sit in front of the TV and watch the shows. Food never digests .

Also, women think the gym is the bad boys’ place. That reminds me of the ad by Google. The expression on the faces of those women in that ad should sum up the mindset towards gym and fitness.

Yoga is a religious practice confined to a single religion (That’s what many think). And inhibitions are compounded by excessive cautions given by many gurus: Do it only after bathing, eat at least three hours and drink water one hour before a session. That’s too much. What could a sip of water or a biscuit do, I wonder. Is yoga a surgical procedure? So, those hard-pressed for time won’t bother to move.

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Men tend to do sports only until they are in university. Women often play less sports than men, due to things like lack of separate changing facilities and lack of encouragement in the society.

Mr. Surjit is a journalist based in Brampton, Canada. flosurj@aol.com.

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With decades of experience , Surjit has a critical eye towards pressing issues including a focus on political issues affecting the provincial and federal governments.

Ontario, CA
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