Namibia Is a Limping Nation

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Namibians are known to be keen meat-lovers, and in the local parlance the saying goes that a meal without a succulent piece of steak is incomplete. Yet, on the flip side is the question of one’s health, especially when it comes to diseases like gout, hypertension or simply high-blood pressure. “These non-communicable diseases are becoming all too common in Namibia and this is mainly because of an ever-changing Westernised lifestyle. All this can be changed if people eat more healthily,” says the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi. As much as Namibians love their red meat, the problem of these two diseases intensifies. It becomes all too common to hear a story or two from someone who suffers from them. “I had an injury near the ankle and acids gather in broken parts of the body. It starts with the ankle, the big toe and sometimes the knee,” said one man who asked for anonymity. He said gout causes an excruciating pain he would not even wish on his worst enemy. Another gout sufferer narrated his story, saying the disease afflicted him when he reached the age of 44. He confessed that the main cause was eating red meat and drinking copious amounts of alcohol. “The disease is dangerous especially if it attacks during the day, but it is worse at night; you become weak,” said the victim. It limits one from doing certain exercises such as running because it is like applying shock to the body, he said. “Doctors have told me to stay away from alcohol, cool drinks, spices and all the good things,” said another man who requested not to be identified. He jokingly indicated that gout could be the reason why the government is trying to encourage people to eat fish. This cannot be easy for most people, especially those who love meat. “We grew up in families that eat meat and, talking of a balanced diet, to some of us this means pap and meat. “Most Hereros, Coloureds and Afrikaners are affected because they love meat. Owambos are economical – they put their money into business, and a chicken can be shared among six families, while Hereros can share a whole goat among two families,” he said. He says people should realize that meat tastes good but it is dangerous on the other hand.. Due to the high intake of red meat, gout is the build-up of crystals in the joints, which causes excruciating pain. Dietician of Roynam Catering Services, Samantha Hentze, said the best thing for a gout sufferer is to clear all the toxins from the body by drinking plenty of water and avoiding beans, bread and fizzy drinks like Coke. – The same story goes for high blood pressure, which is known to be what Samantha Hentze calls “the silent killer.” “There are no symptoms when it comes to hypertension or high blood pressure. The only thing a person can do is to have regular blood level check-ups. You need to screen blood pressure levels regularly because you would not even know the symptoms and then suddenly have a heart attack,” explained Hentze. She added that while it may be that older people are more likely to have a heart attack, younger people are not exempt as it could be genetic. Health experts, however, advise that people who suffer from gout and hypertension should change their meals to fish at least twice or three times a week. ” The problem is that people are adding more salt to their food which is already high in fat content. People also eat less fruits and vegetables, which could have played a big role in lowering their blood level,” said Hentze. She urges people to exercise regularly and to follow a healthy eating plan, as this would help prevent or at least lessen the occurrences of these diseases.