Dietary practices as a lifestyle risk factor for non-communicable diseases among the elderly in a rural setting in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zulu, Maxwell Mbuso.
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Increases in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevalence have been noted in low and middle income countries (LIMCs). As a result, poor dietary practices have been identified as one of the leading modifiable risk factors for NCDs (Lim, Vos et al, 2012). This is because LIMCs are undergoing through nutrition transition stage in the 21st century. However, studies have shown that there is a lack of research about NCDs prevalence in South Africa, in the population aged 50 years and above, even though South Africa has largest population aged 60 years and above in Sub-Saharan Africa (Phaswana-Mafuya et al, 2013, 2). Therefore, a qualitative study was conducted among 20 elderly participants, from age 65 years and above in a rural setting in KwaZulu-Natal. This was conducted through a semi-structured, in-depth interviews in Nyangwini, a rural setting in the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. Health Belief Model (HBM) seven theoretical constructs were used in analysing the findings of this study. Among twenty participants of this study, nineteen participants had at least two to four NCDs, and only one participant had one NCD. These NCDs included high blood pressure, sugar diabetes, arthritis, cardio vascular diseases, cancer, kidney diseases and foot disease. According to this study, the most vulnerable age group to NCDs are the elderly, from age 60-70 years and above. The major themes that emerged from this study, related to poor dietary practices, the frailty of old age, awareness about diet in relation to NCDs, no land to cultivate, lack of money, high costs of food, unappetizing healthy meals, scarcity of fresh/quality produce, poor quality of available healthful food, scarcity of seeds, scarcity of vegetables, scarcity of fruits and geographical isolation of the rural setting to healthy food, high sodium intake in food, high fat intake in food, eating too much and low food variety and dietary diversity . As a result, participants had a low consumption of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, due to poor status of the elderly participants in a rural setting, they had a high consumption of chicken and a low consumption of red meat. This study has justified or established as a premise, the need for more research to be conducted about dietary practices as a lifestyle risk factor for NCDs among the elderly in a rural setting in KwaZulu-Natal.