With 40% of women in the Eastern Cape classified as obese, the province is facing a ticking health time bomb.
This is according to the South African Demographic and Health Survey released last week.
An additional 28% of women were found to be overweight.
The last survey was done in 2003 but, due to the questionable quality of its data, it was not published. The one before that was done in 1998.
The finding that 40% of the province’s women are obese is coupled with another finding that in the Eastern Cape 49.8% of women and 47.3% of men have high blood pressure.
It looks, however, as if Nelson Mandela Bay – named runner-up in Discovery Vitality’s latest Fittest City index – might be bucking this trend.
Eastern Cape Department of Health superintendent Dr Thobile Mbengashe said in his latest annual report that only 9.5% of adult patients visiting state hospitals in the metro have high blood pressure.
Novartis South Africa chief executive Dr Thomas Kowallik said excessive salt intake was one of factors increasing the risk of hypertension.
“South Africans have unacceptably high hypertension levels. There is strong evidence that South Africans consume up to two to three times the recommended daily allowance of 5g,” Kowallik said.
Cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist Dr Vinod Thomas said that while there may not be any symptoms, that does not mean there is no cause for concern.
“If you are not consistent in ensuring that your blood pressure is under control, you put yourself at increased risk of life-threatening conditions,” he said.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of hypertension worldwide. Statistics show that about 130 heart attacks and 240 strokes occur daily.
This means that 10 people suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour.
“Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years, starting at 18. If you’re younger with a high risk of high blood pressure, or older than 40, measure it at least once a year,” Thomas said.
The Healthy Living Alliance’s Tracey Malawana said that tackling obesity should be a national health priority.
“Cutting sugar consumption is a non-negotiable public health measure. Sugary drinks are a major contributor to excessive sugar intake.”