Health Risks: How Tanzania’s Modern Lifestyle Spurs Obesity and Overweight

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The world has experienced technological modernization in the past few decades, improving people’s living standards, especially in urban areas in Tanzania and other developing countries and the world at large. These improvements of living conditions and developments have come up with different challenges and opportunities.

Transportation, technologies and white-collar jobs have brought in scenarios that make employees and workers sit in their offices for long hours, spend longer hours travelling to and from their offices, and eat junk foods and sugary drinks. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle seems daunting due to these changes brought about by modernization in urban areas.

Trends of physical inactivity, consumption of high-end food, excessive alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking especially among young people in urban areas like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Dodoma are the norms of the day in night clubs and lounges. As living standards are steadily improving, so do unhealthy lifestyles among residents of these urban areas.

These unhealthy lifestyles are the predicting factors for obesity and overweight, which are significant risk factors for various non-communicable diseases and are associated with every chronic condition, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, obstructive sleep apnea and reproductive performance ineffectiveness. For instance, 14% of heart failure, 23% of ischemic heart disease, 44% of diabetes, 70% of hypertension and up to 41% of cancer burden is attributed to excess body weight.

Also read The Poverty-Obesity Paradox in Tanzania: Exploring Food Choices and Health Outcomes

In 2016, 1.9 billion (39%) adults aged 18 and above were overweight, and 650 million were obese worldwide. The projection shows that 2.16 billion (38%) of the world’s adult population will be overweight and 1.12 billion (20%) will be obese by 2030, Zubery D, Kimiywe J, Martin HD, Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity, and its associated factors among Health care workers, Teachers, and Bankers in Arusha city, 2021.

In Tanzania, the prevalence of obesity rose from 0.6% in 1980 to 3.6% in 1986, and the trend has been doubling over the decades since the 1990s.

This article intends to highlight self-management activities and healthy lifestyles. Individuals can adopt an overall healthy mindset at their own pace and time to counter the dangers of obesity and overweight brought about by modern life and achieve productivity and success as a result of better overall health.

Physical Activity

The sedentary nature of many forms of work and means of transportation as one of the predicting factors for obesity and overweight is very common, especially among white-collar workers of most public and private institutions and companies in Tanzania. Tanzania Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance advocates doing any physical activity for not less than 30 minutes a day.

Physical activity includes running, bicycling, swimming, football, basketball, and volleyball, using stairs instead of elevators, push-ups, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and dancing to music. It is important in reducing the risk factors for obesity and overweight and, hence, for various non-communicable diseases.

Physical activity may seem daunting, but individuals can adopt more movement into their daily routines, such as taking stairs instead of an elevator, going for a brisk walk during lunch breaks, and scheduling short exercise sessions. These are simple daily adaptations an individual can make to stay active and avoid being overweight and obese to enhance productivity.

Read Related: Tanzania’s Battle with Non-Communicable Diseases: Challenges and Strategies for Management

A Good Sleep Will Do the Trick

Tanzania Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance also stresses that people should have at least 6-8 hours of sleep at night for maximum body rest. Also, sitting for more than one hour daily affects the body’s ability to regulate sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol burning. The alliance advises sitting up and walking for one or two minutes after every hour of sitting. This is important to make the body physically active and productive in day-to-day work.

A Healthy Eating and Drinking Lifestyle

Consuming high-end food and food rich in carbohydrates in large quantities and excessive consumption of alcohol and sugary drinks is not healthy and a predicting factor of obesity and overweight. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into one’s diet is crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Choosing water over sugary drinks, swapping out fried foods for grilled options, and opting for homemade food are all healthy lifestyles. Tanzania Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance advocates eating more fruits and vegetables, milk, and meat from birds and fish, as well as a small intake of cereals. Replacing sugary drinks with water is of great importance, as well as responsible alcohol consumption, if any.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Technologies and modern lifestyles in today’s busy world have also led to many challenges for people worldwide, including Tanzania. Hectic work issues, deadlines, targets, and reports have taken a toll on people’s mental health. Physical activity, sports activities, and sharing our challenges with our loved ones are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and mental well-being. Exercising regularly will provide a lot of leisure time, enrich social relations, and improve mental health and well-being for a healthy individual.

The Use of Tobacco Products

Stopping smoking cigarettes or use of tobacco increases lifespan by up to 5 years. 1 in every 8 cigarette smokers dies each year from blood pressure, 1 in every 3 cancer deaths is from smoking cigarettes, 1 in every 10 cases of lung cancer, and 1 in 5 are victims of chronic respiratory diseases. Cigarette smokers are at a high of ulcers, while pregnant women smokers are at risk of giving birth to premature babies, and smoking at home may affect other family members too.

Modern life of shisha and cigarette smoking, especially among youths, is a challenge, and it is detrimental to the health of this productive workforce. More campaigns to encourage people to stop smoking tobacco products as it has no benefits whatsoever to people’s health and well-being.

In Tanzania and other developing countries, the population is shifting from predominantly underweight to overweight. Obesity and overweight are costing the world as the global economy of obesity amounts to $2 trillion annually and carries an increased individual all-cause mortality risk and claims about 4 million lives annually. The time for individuals to have a healthy lifestyle is now, and every person is solely responsible for his/her health.

Good health is the first asset an individual can possess, and it’s crucial for productivity. It saves one from frequently visiting hospitals, which adds living costs to an individual and obscures one from involvement in production endeavours. A healthy lifestyle boosts energy levels, improves cardiovascular health, improves digestion and enhances overall health, resulting in mental wellness, good health, and productivity for the welfare of Tanzania and its economic development.

hold a bachelor's degree in Public Relations and Marketing from St. Augustine University of Tanzania. I am currently working as a Hub Data Officer for Benjamin Mkapa Foundation at Usangi District hospital. I am an experienced Marketing and Sales professional where I have worked in this field for over 5 years. I have now worked in a PEPFAR HIV funded programme for over 3 years where I have been receiving various training and facilitation on the basics of comprehensive HIV care. I am passionate about traveling and creative writing and I am determined to learn more about writing to express my ideas that will inspire positive and constructive discussion in Tanzania for the welfare of the Tanzanian society.

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