Lifestyle Diseases on the Rise in Kenya

Despite the articles written and published on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, lifestyle diseases in Kenya have greatly increased. High blood Pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer cause 55% of deaths in the country. These diseases are as a result of Economic transitions, rapid urbanization with unhealthy diets and modern lifestyle practices such as increased intake of tobacco and lack of exercise being the leading causes.

According to most health physicians, there are many myths around health and lifestyle. Most of these myths misguide people and lead to poor health. For example myths around the health of the elderly. 70% of the elderly people in Kenya are overweight. However this alarms less people than it should. People think that it is normal for one to gain weight with advanced age due to slow metabolic rate. However this is not normal and it can lead to diseases like stroke and diabetes. It is also known to aggravate arthritis.

Another belief that is not correct is that exercise is not good for the elderly. However exercise is good as it strengthens their bones, prevents muscle loss and leads to improved mental function. The other fact that is not told is that anti-aging products cannot reverse the aging process but instead cause some health problems.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to age gracefully.

Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to good nutrition and healthy lifestyle. They are growing, their bones are developing and they need good nutrition. Unfortunately, 45 percent of the children experience poverty in Kenya, this is according to a UNICEF report. Consequently, they cannot access a decent well balanced meal to eat, safe drinking water or good health care facilities. In the recent past, drought has also affected half of the counties in the country, driving up malnutrition rates and disease outbreaks.

Women have special nutrient needs and they change with different stages in lives. However, a government survey shows an increase in the number of overweight women in the country. Kenya was ranked ninth in Africa as the country with the highest number of overweight women. This is a result of poor eating habits. However 43% and 37% of overweight and obese women respectively have stunted children. Reports however show that despite the increasing numbers of overweight women, more men are becoming malnourished. This is mostly due to wasting i.e. low weight for height. Most men tend to be taller but thin.

Government has a policy to ensure that all Kenyans enjoy safe food in sufficient quantity and quality, to satisfy their nutrition needs for optimum health. The Food and Nutrition Security strategy was developed with the following objectives:

  • Improve nutritional status of women of reproductive age 15-49 years.
  • Reduce the prevalence of micro nutrient deficiencies in the population.
  • Prevent deterioration of nutrition status and save lives of vulnerable groups in emergencies.
  • Improves access to quality curative nutrition services.
  • Improve prevention, management and control of diet related NCDs.
  • Improve nutrition in schools and other institutions.
  • Improve knowledge, attitudes and practices on optimal nutrition.
  • Strengthen the nutrition surveillance monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Enhance evidence based decision-making through operation research.
  • Strengthen coordination and partnerships among the key nutrition actors.

Even with the government putting across policies to ensure that everyone has access to good nutrition and maintain a good lifestyle, the choices of money and some natural disasters have proven this quite difficult. It is the responsibility of each person to ensure they lead a healthy lifestyle and that children are well raised with good nutrition and healthy lifestyle.

Written by 
Ciku Wainaina