The Society of Lifestyle Medicine of Nigeria (SOLONg) has called on citizens to adopt a therapeutic lifestyle to avert, reverse or slow the progression of chronic diseases.
The national president, SOLONg, Dr. Ifeoma Monye gave the advice during an interview with journalists in Abuja, saying lifestyle medicine was a new speciality in medicine that consists of therapeutic lifestyle interventions to prevent, treat and, in some cases, reverse the progression of chronic diseases.
This, according to her, includes habits such as eating whole-food, plant-predominant meals, adequate restorative sleep, regular physical activity, avoidance of toxic substances such as tobacco and alcohol, management of stress and sustained positive social connections.
She disclosed that more people were dying of chronic diseases worldwide than from COVID-19, AIDS, TB and malaria combined.
“Deaths from NCDs are on a sharp rise in Africa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that this is set to get worse unless we act decisively in Africa.
“At the SOLONg fourth annual scientific conference and general meeting held virtually, our discussion was on what we must do now to mitigate this healthcare emergency that is upon us as a country,” she explained.
She said as Nigeria’s only medical and health professional association representing the interdisciplinary field of lifestyle medicine, the society exists as a galvanised force for change; not just in the healthcare sector, but in the wider community.
“SOLONg represents a group of passionate and dedicated clinicians who are united in their message to Nigerians and the rest of Africa,” she said.
The national president asserted that the recent combination of COVID-19 conflicts and climate change has made the country and the rest of Africa even more vulnerable; therefore, there was a need to focus on the root causes to effectively deal with the menace of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Monye said that the association was working to identify and eradicate the root cause of chronic disease, rather than just treat the diseases that result from lifestyle practices which – as confirmed by studies – is due to behavioural choices.
“We could prevent and even reverse chronic disease by changing our behaviour and through therapeutic lifestyle interventions.
“At our monthly research webinars, we have critically reviewed scholarly articles that represent scientific evidence that lifestyle medicine can prevent, stop or reverse the progression of many of these chronic diseases.
“We believe that lifestyle medicine should be the first and optimal whole-person treatment option for chronic diseases.
“We know this will go a long way to mitigate the quadruple burden of disease, directly or indirectly dealing with NCDs, HIV/AIDS and TB, poverty-related conditions, including maternal and child health problems, pandemics and injuries,” she explained.
Lifestyle medicine, according to her, would reduce health inequalities by reaching the hard-to-reach who incidentally need lifestyle medicine interventions the most.
“This becomes a dream come true in the face of scarce resources through group consultations and taken a notch higher, through virtual group consultations, doing the best to the greatest number,” she said.
Monye called on the Federal Government to enact policies that would encourage individuals and communities to make healthy lifestyle changes.
“Introducing and implementing new taxes on sugary drinks, tobacco and alcohol will result in proportional reductions in consumption of these,” she said.
She stated that, according to WHO, subsidies used to reduce retail prices of fresh fruits and vegetables by, at least, 10-30 per cent, can increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Also, Monye that in August 2022 at the 72nd session of the WHO regional committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo, African health ministers, endorsed a new strategy to boost access to the diagnosis, treatment and care of noncommunicable diseases, to reduce deaths.
She, therefore, called on African health ministers to consider the prevention, treatment and reversal of these chronic diseases using lifestyle medicine principles. “That is what will reduce deaths,” she said.