Muscat: A healthy diet and regular exercise are very important during the COVID-19 pandemic to stop the spread of lifestyle diseases, particularly among people with chronic ailments, the Ministry of Health has said.
Dr Shatha Al Raisi, the head of the Non Communicable Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health, said that those who don’t currently have lifestyle diseases could suffer from them if they do not follow proper diet and exercise.
According to ministry figures, 15 per cent of Oman’s population report diabetes, while two-thirds of the country are said to have elevated blood pressure levels. 30 per cent are obese, while 35 per cent are overweight.
“We know non-communicable diseases are very common in Oman and around the world,” she told the Times of Oman.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, patients suffering from non-communicable diseases are affected in terms of the disruption of medical services provided to them, and it only gets worse if they are infected with the coronavirus.”
“The strict regulations on movement during the pandemic, as well as reduction of time spent going out, means that people will have less physical activity, which is very important in people with chronic lifestyle diseases,” added Al Raisi.
“It is not easy to follow health diets all the time, so these factors expose them to more complications, while those who do not have chronic ailments could become more vulnerable to them.”
To spread awareness of the importance of sticking to a healthy lifestyle to reduce the onset of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and increased blood pressure, as well as the complications caused to one’s health because of them, the ministry, represented by the Non Communicable Diseases Department, has launched a campaign with global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, called ‘Hematuk Maana’ which means ‘your protection is with us’.
The main focus of this campaign is to spread awareness among people, regarding managing their own non-communicable diseases, and to know more about the services available to them, as well as the treatment plan they are required to follow.
For example, “patients with diabetes need to make sure they check their blood sugar regularly, hypertension patients and those who have blood pressure need to know how to manage this and control it, and there are similar procedures for those suffering from asthma,” explained Al Raisi.
She added that there were risk factors that contributed to people suffering from lifestyle disease, saying, “Before 2017, which is the last year for which we have information, the number of people with diabetes increased from 14 per cent in 2008, to 15.7 per cent in 2017.
“Hypertension levels were at 32.3 per cent among Omanis and expatriates, and every year, we record more than 2,000 incidents of cancer. We know that 15 per cent of men in Oman use tobacco, 30 per cent of the population is obese, and 35 per cent of people are overweight. Our campaign is not focused on just patients alone, but we aim to target everyone in the community,” explained Al Raisi.
“We want everyone in the community to know that all of us have a role to play here. Everyone has to put in the effort required, so that we can help ourselves and others control these disease. Medication will help, but what will really help more are healthy habits.”
As part of this campaign, awareness will be spread through videos, mobile apps, and online exercise videos. “People cannot go out to learn exercises right now, so we will teach them these things online,” said Al Raisi.