South Africans are eating too much and exercising too little. That is the message from Dr Dominique Stott PPS Executive: Medical Standards and Services.
In an interview with News24Live she urged South Africans to kick start summer with a healthier lifestyle especiallySouth Africa has the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 61% of the population being overweight or obese, according to the latest statistics published in the Lancet medical journal.
Dr Scott said South Africa is fast following the lifestyle pattern of the Western world. “Following cigarette smoking, obesity has recently become the greatest preventable health related cause of mortality in the world. Essentially, overeating is the new smoking,” she noted.
"Unfortunately, this is a western lifestyle problem that has infiltrated the South African culture and it seems to be here to stay," said Dr Stott. "A couple of years ago this figure was not this high."
The obesity levels of a country are usually a good indicator of the lifestyle habits of that nation, as one expects members of a healthy nation to be aware of their weight and the long term implications of unhealthy routines.
Watch the full interview with Dr Stott:
"Unless people change their lifestyles, this is not something that is going to change. And if they don't do anything about it, we are going to end up in South Africa with a real health crisis on our hands."
Dr Stott pointed out that increasingly more people are suffering from diabetes and hypertension and in turn can lead to a rise in stroke and heart attacks.
With the festive season upon us, she said this presents the perfect time of the year for people to change their lifestyles.
Read: The obesity blame game
"It is not an opportunity to completely lose control. It can actually be an opportunity to re-evaluate yourself and tell yourself that maybe from next year you are going to do things differently."
You don't have to make drastic changes, suggested Dr Stott. "People can incrementally change their lifestyle to be healthier."
One can start off by taking a brisk walk twice a week, the walk will turn into a short run and over a period of time eventually they will be able to increase the distance and the times and frequency of the run, she said.
When it comes to exercise, Dr Stott said that any form of exercise for at least 30 minutes three times per week is advisable for most people. “It does not necessarily need to be formal exercise only. For example, climbing stairs or walking during lunchtime is better than doing no exercise at all.”