Dr Lutendo Muremela is used to writing scripts for medication, but he has now written a manuscript, prescribing changes to bad habits.
Having lost many patients to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, 59-year-old Muremela has written Living a Healthy Long Life – a book urging people to live healthy lives.
Muremela believes that 80% of lifestyle diseases that kill people are preventable, avoidable and controllable. People just need to take care of their bodies by eating healthily, going for regular check-ups and exercising regularly.
“Lifestyle disease” is a term used to refer to illnesses linked with the way people live their lives, which are commonly caused by alcohol, drug abuse and eating unhealthy food.
Studies have established that diseases like hypertension, diabetes, mellitus, arthritis, gout and obesity are related to our lifestyles.
Born in Matsika village outside Thohoyandou, Muremela has been practising medicine for more than 30 years. He said that in recent years there has been an increase in most lifestyle illnesses among rural people in Vhembe due to changes in their eating habits.
"Before the 1980s, in rural areas such as the Vhembe district, because of poverty, we used to eat very little meat and other animal products and ate a lot of vegetables.
"We couldn’t afford junk food. Today we overindulge in sugary foods and drinks, and do little exercise," said Muremela.
He said that due to the shortage of recreational activities in Vhembe, most people spend their time abusing alcohol and drugs.
Muremela said ignorance often leads to unnecessary diseases. "I encourage people to stay away from unhealthy food, which is the main cause of many diseases today.
"I believe it's about time we go back to our original diets. We used to eat fruit and vegetables but now we can go an entire week without eating any vegetables, which is wrong," he lamented.
This shift from traditional food to highly-processed food has been mentioned in a new global study published in Nature journal as one of the factors driving higher obesity rates in rural populations.
Muremela has seen people die from diseases that could have been prevented if they had gone for regular check-ups.
Importance of regular exercise
"Most of the diseases we have these days can be prevented or controlled. It is very important for all of us to go for regular medical check-ups and not wait until we feel pain or have a complaint," he said.
His book highlights the importance of regular exercise. "Decades ago we did not have many cars and we used to exercise by walking long distances, but today we work seated and take transport even when home is just metres away.
"We do not exercise enough but still eat fatty meals and overindulge in sugar and salt, which has been associated with many lifestyle illnesses," he said.
Muremela believes that if learners are made to read just one book at school about health it can help to educate them about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.
"It’s important to introduce health education at our schools. Studies have shown that the lifespan among black people in African countries will soon average at about 50 years if our people do not change their bad lifestyles," he warned. – Health-e News.
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