oa South African Family Practice - A risk-factor profile for chronic lifestyle diseases in three rural Free State towns : original research
Background: Chronic diseases of lifestyle account for millions of deaths each year globally. These diseases share similar modifiable risk factors, including hypertension, tobacco smoking, diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidaemia and physical inactivity. In South Africa the burden of noncommunicable disease risk factors is high. To reduce or control as many lifestyle risk factors as possible in a population, the distinct risk-factor profile for that specific community must be identified. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the health status in three rural Free State communities and to identify a distinct risk-factor profile for chronic lifestyle diseases in these communities.
Methods: This study forms part of the baseline phase of the Assuring Health for All in the Free State project, which is a prospective and longitudinal epidemiological study aimed at determining how living in a rural area can either protect or predispose one to developing chronic lifestyle diseases. The communities of three black and coloured, rural Free State areas, namely Trompsburg, Philippolis and Springfontein, were evaluated. The study population consisted of 499 households, and 658 individuals (including children) participated in the study. Only results of adult participants between 25 and 64 years will be reported in this article. The study group consisted of 29.4% male and 70.6% female participants, with a mean age of 49 years. During interviews with trained researchers, household socio-demographic questionnaires, as well as individual questionnaires evaluating diet, risk factors (history of hypertension and / or diabetes) and habits (tobacco smoking and physical activity levels), were completed. All participants underwent anthropometric evaluation, medical examination and blood sampling to determine fasting blood glucose levels.
Results: Multiple risk factors for noncommunicable diseases were identified in this study population, including high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, high body mass index (BMI), diabetes and physical inactivity. The reported risk-factor profile was ranked. Increased waist circumference was ranked highest, high blood pressure second, tobacco smoking third, physical inactivity fourth and diabetes fifth. The cumulative risk-factor profile revealed that 35.6 and 21% of this study population had two and three risk factors, respectively.
Conclusions: The study demonstrated a high prevalence of risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, e.g. large waist circumference, high BMI, raised blood pressure, tobacco smoking and raised blood glucose levels. Serious consideration should be given to this escalating burden of lifestyle diseases in the study population. The development and implementation of relevant health promotion and intervention programmes that will improve the general health and reduce the risk for noncommunicable diseases in this population are advised.
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