Regular exercise and a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and the right amount of protein may help lessen damage to the heart and skeletal muscles brought on by malaria, a new study has claimed.
Each year, malaria afflicts over 500 million people in scores of countries around the world, killing more than 400,000, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, most studies on fighting malaria focus on the mosquito-borne parasite that causes the illness while ignoring the impact of the disease on skeletal muscles and the heart.
Moderate or high levels of malaria infection typically affect skeletal muscles and the heart, said Marco Brotto, Professor at The University of Texas Arlington in the US.
"Residual effects could be from the heart being weaker for some time to permanently suffering some damage. Muscles are also very similar," he said.
"If you develop chronic myopathy, it becomes harder to get in shape. The parasite takes away the normal ability of the blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen to the body. That triggers the process of the demise," said Brotto.
Brotto noted that even those with mild cases of malaria report a lot of muscle soreness and fatigue.
He said people who eat healthy diets and exercise will be in a stronger position to vanquish the disease and to do so in a shorter amount of time.
"There are interventions you could take prior to or in anticipation of an infection in order to improve the muscular and heart function," he said.
"People would not feel so tired and so weak if they have a targeted intervention," said Brotto.
Examples of these interventions include anti-oxidant therapy through diet and medication.
The researchers recommend eating more uncooked fruits and vegetables and fibre as well as increasing protein intake through the consumption of meat, poultry, fish, legumes and protein shakes or powders, particularly those with some specific combinations of amino acid derivatives such as hydroxyl beta-methylbutyric acid or HMB.
Exercise is a great tool for combating the infection too, he said.
"The better shape you're in, the more prepared you will be to fight the infection," he said.
The study was published in The Malaria Journal.