The popular notion is that lifestyle diseases are directly linked to the most affluent in the society. Those who love to throw away some good money at fancy restaurants and expensive joints after burning the midnight oil amassing wealth is very unfounded. Truth is, lifestyle choices have grievous consequences irrespective of one’s economic background age or gender.
Anyone is at risk. For Kennedy Kachwanya, Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) chairman, it was all good, until a simple medical check-up suddenly hit the brakes of his health.
Diet discipline was a foreign concept and in the busy schedules during the day and late night of work, junk food became his solace.
“I didn’t care much about what I ate. I used to take lots of soda and fast food. I added so much weight, even hitting 95 kilograms, I was literally obese,” he confesses.
Little by little, his habit took a toll on his thirst. He developed a constant urge to take up so much water, only to rush to the washroom to get it out. Anything liquid would quench his incessant thirst but only for a while. Meetings had to be interrupted, long distance drives too, so he could get out and relieve himself.
Unbeknownst to him, something was terribly wrong with his system, but having not experienced any serious medical situations all his life to an extent of being admitted in a hospital, Kachwanya braced himself for a normal sickness that would dwindle with time, until a trip to Naivasha raised alarm about his condition.
“About two or three years ago in August, I developed a constant urge to take a lot of water, but I could barely hold it in. I would rush to the washroom to often to help myself. I thought it was normal and it would pass but it persisted. I could barely sit through a whole meeting. When I took a trip to Naivasha, I stopped the driver twice to go relieve myself, something that I rarely do. That is when it hit me hard that something was terribly wrong with me,” he says.
After getting back to Nairobi, Kachwanya called his doctor friend about it. The doctor asked him to visit a nearby chemist and have his blood sugar levels checked up. He instead opted to pass by Melchizedek Hospital, a stone’s throw away from his residence for a thorough examination. But shit hit the fan upon seeing the doctor.
“When I explained my situation to the doctor, he told me to get blood sugar test. Immediately afterwards I was rushed to the ward and hooked up to an Intravenous (IV) drip because my sugar level was at 32. Normally it should range from 4 to 8. The doctors confirmed my insulin levels among other things. Low blood sugar is the worst, with high blood sugar levels, you can survive but my situation was terrible meaning if I stayed out for a few more hours, my organs could have failed or I could have died,” he recalls.
Escaping death by a whisker, Kachwanya spent two days in the hospital with the doctors working hard to stabilize his sugar levels, with insulin injections and eight bags of water dripped intravenously to his body.
“I had learnt earlier that my dad died of diabetes, but it didn’t mean much then. I just didn’t know it put me at so much risk as well,” he adds.
His blood sugar stabilized to normal after the treatment and the doctor recommended that he could drop the insulin injections for tablets. He also got himself a home kit to monitor the performance of his blood sugar and immediately began his journey into a nutritious diet; devoid of sugar, with reduced amounts of carbs, plenty of vegetables and healthy protein. In three months time, thanks to his discipline his health was renewed.
Exercise and diet are an investment that he could not shy away from. Kachwanya admitted that he has invested in both and if he cannot get his health together then there is no victory elsewhere that matters. After quitting sugar and reducing on carbs, he has always been very keen and choosy with what he eats when out at events.
“A lot of people avoid mboga (vegetables) at events, but for me, that together with water is the safest option. I also carry sweets in my bag to boost my sugar levels in case of an emergency,” he notes.
A day after he was dismissed from the hospital, he hit the ground running with a four lap morning run, that almost put him out. Incorporating exercise into his lifestyle became a struggle that he could not afford to give up on although sometime the previous year, he had enrolled for the gym, but with no motivation and laziness, he quit.
“After leaving the hospital, the following day, l went to Ligi Ndogo and did four laps, with no moderation. I didn’t know I was still weak. On my way back home, I started seeing stars. My feet were very weak and I could not move. I took a bodaboda home. I had to crawl up to the fourth floor where I live. When I called my doctor, she asked me to get a Fanta drink. Luckily, my friend Jeff, whom I had met earlier that day came through with the soda after I called him. Apparently, my sugar levels were really low which is much worse than what took me to the hospital,” he says.
But Kachwanya is very committed to the course. Every morning he goes for a 15 to 16km walk except when traveling. He hits the gym every evening a habit that has finally become natural to him after losing 10kgs in the hard work. He also goes biking every weekend, occasionally hikes with a few friends and is planning to start participating in marathons.
Reminiscing about his experience while lying in the hospital bed, his life flashing across his eyes, he notes that content that comes to one naturally is the best to create awareness to the people who have totally ignored their healthy lives. That constant reminder that he could have passed on to the next life while still young, makes him constantly ask himself, ‘What I’m I living for.’
“There is always that constant reminder. The worst thing is when you are told you are going to die because of your choices, that you are dying because you are not disciplined, it’s shocking,” he admits.
Lifestyle diseases have become so common and too real to be ignored, yet everyone is either too busy or too lazy to change. Society must put their health as the number one priority, before its too late. An option that is cheaper and the returns on investment very long lasting.
“In the bracket of those exposed to these lifestyle diseases, I never placed myself there. I took so much for granted, being ignorant about health information because I trade in tech business. But it is real, don’t wait until you are in a hospital bed to change, just be active. The amount I spent in hospital could have given me a full year gym subscription, a bicycle, and many more hikes. Practically exercise is way cheaper,” he says.
There has to be a change in perception and attitudes towards lifestyle diseases. People need to snap out of their comfort zone and exercise often so they can live much longer, happier and healthier.
“A thirty-minute walk three times a week is good enough. Do two to three kilometers on a bare minimum. At least once a week do an exercise that gets your heart beating faster. There are other options like swimming, biking, gym, running and long walks,” he recommends.