Popular Olympic medallist Caster Semenya was on hand to share health tips with the walkers. Total South Africa takes the health of its staff seriously.(Images: Janine Erasmus) The Johannesburg Zoo combines health and conservation through the regular events and walks for various causes that it hosts.(Image: City of Johannesburg)MEDIA CONTACTS • Jessica ChadinhaAccount manager, Jenni Newman PR+27 82 777 5427 or +27 11 506 7350RELATED ARTICLES• R2-million injection for SA zoo• SA wildlife on the big screen• Big five cat moves into new reserve• A paradise for rescued birds• Boost for trucking wellness driveJanine ErasmusThe Johannesburg Zoo and global fuel company Total South Africa recently teamed up to encourage South Africans to get healthy, by organising a fun walk for employees and their families, with an emphasis on combating the so-called soundless five medical conditions – hypertension or high blood pressure, hyperlipidaemia or high cholesterol, obesity, blood sugar, and HIV.These conditions may be present without any accompanying symptoms, hence their description as silent killers.According to the Government Employee Medical Scheme (Gems), even people who consider themselves to be fit can be affected, and high blood pressure and cholesterol as well as diabetes, especially, can develop without any obvious signs. These conditions are often discovered almost by accident, and only after already causing damage.The Total walk extended over five kilometres of winding zoo roads and paths – one kilometre for each medical condition.“These five conditions need to be given much more emphasis as they have a major impact on the long-term health of our staff,” explained Musa Langa, Total South Africa’s wellness manager.Knowing that these conditions are among the factors that can lead to absenteeism and under-productivity, the company has taken a firm interest in the health of its staff. During 2011 it ran a wellness challenge, providing staff with a number of tools with which to improve their personal health. These included access to doctors, dieticians and individual programmes.The company also runs an employee assistance programme which helps staff to manage issues such as finance, health, stress, and work/life balance. If employees are diagnosed with HIV, Total South Africa covers the cost of antiretroviral medication. The company also has a gym, car wash, convenience shop and ATM at its head office in Johannesburg.Total South Africa was recently certified as one of the country’s best employers for 2012/2013 – reasons cited include excellent working conditions, a dedication to transformation, and recognition of the importance of inclusion and diversity.A full range of tests was available at the zoo after the walk, for all five conditions, with experts available to give advice on areas that needed improvement.Celebrities weigh inFormer world junior flyweight champion “Baby” Jake Matlala and Olympic silver medallist Caster Semenya were on hand to encourage the walkers.“Keep exercising and eat healthy food,” said Semenya. “Stay away from junk food, and make sure you have a good breakfast.”She added that people should believe in themselves and their capabilities.Semenya overcame controversy in 2009, when her gender came into question after she dominated the track in her world debut season – she was just 18 at the time. At the 2012 London Olympics she achieved a silver medal in the 800m final, to the delight of the nation.Matlala said it’s important that people know the different ways in which they can boost their health, such as these five vital checks.“Days like this are important,” he said, “where companies are encouraging people to get healthy. Follow a good diet, and do exercise – you don’t have to run, but even a family walk on Saturdays or Sundays will help.”Matlala also advised parents to get involved with their children’s wellbeing, and lead by example. “We must teach the young ones, so that they can start their good habits early in life.”An unhealthy nationIn South Africa the rate of heart disease is high – every eight minutes a South African has a heart attack, and every fourth one is fatal.Results of a 2010 survey conducted by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline reveal that 61% of South Africans are overweight, obese or morbidly obese. In addition, 70% of women over the age of 35 and 59% of black women over the age of 15 are overweight or obese. Young people are affected too, as the survey revealed weight problems in a worrying 25% of teenagers and 17% of children under the age of nine.About six-million South Africans suffer from hypertension, and five-million have high blood cholesterol levels.All of these conditions can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle, and if they are already present, can be managed through good eating and regular exercise.Knowledge is powerKnowing the right numbers is important, says Gems. Blood pressure should be lower than 120/80, and cholesterol levels should be lower than five. People with a cholesterol reading higher than seven should visit a doctor, who may prescribe medication and a strict diet.In terms of weight, experts advise a body mass index of less than 25kg per metre of height squared. A higher reading means that the heart may be under unnecessary strain, and can lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as diabetes.The high blood sugar levels found in people with diabetes can damage the heart’s blood vessels – this could eventually result in angina or even a heart attack. A blood sugar reading of between 3.3 and 6.5 is normal.In the case of HIV, prevention is better than cure, and there are a number of various protective strategies against contracting the disease. Living a responsible lifestyle is the main factor, which includes the use of condoms always, even during pregnancy, and keeping sexual partners to a minimum.
Top stories: Two new letters for the genetic code, stat checking psychology, and the formerly abominable snowman By Roni DenglerDec. 1, 2017 , 3:25 PM Scientists just added two functional letters to the genetic codeAll life forms on Earth use the same genetic alphabet of the bases A, T, C, and G—nitrogen-containing compounds that constitute the building blocks of DNA and spell out the instructions for making proteins. Now, scientists have developed the first bacterium to use extra letters, or unnatural bases, to build proteins. The traditional four DNA bases code for 20 amino acids, but the addition of new letters X and Y could produce up to 152 amino acids, which might become building blocks for new drugs and novel materials, the scientists say.China’s dark matter space probe detects tantalizing signalSign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D'IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People's Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People's Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)A long-standing challenge in physics has been finding evidence for dark matter, the stuff presumed to make up a substantial chunk of the mass of the universe. Its existence seems to be responsible for the structure of the universe and the formation and evolution of galaxies. But physicists have yet to observe this mysterious material. Results reported Wednesday by a China-led space science mission provide a tantalizing hint—but not firm evidence—for dark matter.Controversial software is proving surprisingly accurate at spotting errors in psychology papersWhen Dutch researchers developed an open-source algorithm named statcheck to flag statistical errors in psychology papers, it received mixed reactions from the research community—especially after the free tool found that tens of thousands of published papers contained statistical inconsistencies. Some scientists have called these studies a “form of harassment,” and others have questioned the accuracy of the tool itself. Now, a new study by statcheck’s developers—posted to a preprint server this week—suggests their algorithm gets it right in more than 95% of cases. Expect that result to be checked.Ancient flying reptiles cared for their young, fossil trove suggestsA spectacular fossil find is providing tantalizing new clues about the habits of pterosaurs, ancient flying reptiles that lived at the same times as dinosaurs. The cache of more than 200 fossil eggs found with bones of juvenile and adult animals in northwestern China suggests to some researchers that pterosaur parents may have cared for their newly hatched young. In a paper published Thursday in Science, researchers report that a 3-meter-square chunk of rock they excavated contains 16 eggs with the fossilized bones of developing embryos.So much for the abominable snowman. Study finds ‘yeti’ DNA belongs to bearsHikers in Tibet and the Himalayas need not fear the monstrous yeti—but they’d darn well better carry bear spray. Previous genetic analyses of a couple of “yeti” hair samples collected in India and Bhutan suggested that a stretch of their mitochondrial DNA resembled that of polar bears. That finding hinted that a previously unknown type of bear, possibly a hybrid between polar bears and brown bears, could be roaming the Himalayas. Now, DNA analyses of nine samples purported to be from the “abominable snowman” reveal that eight actually came from various species of bears native to the area. (Left to right): The Yeti, illustration from "Monsters and Mythic Beasts" 1975 (color litho), D'Achille, Gino (1935–2017)/Private Collection/Bridgeman Images; James Cavallini/Science Source; Chuang Zhou