Did you know that there is a link between Lifestyle and Disease? There certainly is.
In times past, many people died from communicable diseases and there was not much they could do to prevent this. Nowadays, communicable diseases are not so much the problem. What we are dying from are non-communicable – or lifestyle – diseases.
What are Lifestyle Diseases
Lifestyle diseases are defined as diseases linked with the way people live their life. These diseases are not transmitted between people, but rather develop over time due mainly to the personal choices that people make and to a lesser extent to genetics. In all lifestyle diseases, there are controllable risk factors, which are behavior choices, and uncontrollable risk factors, which are genetic and can’t be changed.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular non-communicable diseases and some of the lifestyle that increases the risk of these diseases.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. The term “Cardiovascular disease” is a broad, umbrella term used to describe all conditions affecting the heart and circulatory system, including coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack and aortic disease.
- Physical Inactivity
Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease. It also can increase the chances of having other medical conditions that are risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your risk for heart disease.
Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis.
Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels, which increases your risk for heart conditions such as atherosclerosis and heart attack. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry. Exposure to other people’s secondhand smoke can increase your risk for heart disease even if you are a nonsmoker.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure levels and the risk for heart disease. It also increases levels of triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, which can harden your arteries.
High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems… such as heart disease.
Low levels of physical activity have a direct link with weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of raised blood pressure.
Exercise, on the other hand, increases blood flow through all arteries of the body, which leads to release of natural hormones and cytokines that relax blood vessels, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, and also causes the arteries in your body to constrict. Both factors increase blood pressure.
Too little potassium also increase blood pressure as potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. You need potassium which causes the smooth muscle cells in your arteries to relax, thus lowering blood pressure.
Having more than two drinks per day can cause hypertension.
High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, increase in blood pressure. Relaxation and meditation techniques effectively lower blood pressure.
The more you weigh the more blood flow you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure inside your arteries.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the world. The word “cancer” is a broad term. It describes the disease that results when cellular changes cause the uncontrolled growth and division of cells and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue as it spreads throughout your body.
Foods consumed in your diet can increase the risk of cancer. For instance, a diet high in saturated fat have been linked to an increased risk of colon, breast, and possibly prostate cancer. A diet high in smoked and pickled foods or in barbecued meats increases the risk of developing stomach cancer. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of cancer of the breast, lining of the uterus (endometrium), colon, kidneys, and esophagus.
Tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and of death from cancer. People who use tobacco products or who are regularly around environmental tobacco smoke (also called secondhand smoke) have an increased risk of cancer because tobacco products and secondhand smoke have many chemicals that damage DNA.
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting 6 kinds of cancer; cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx (voice box), liver, and breast. The more you drink, the higher your risk. The risk of cancer is much higher for those who drink alcohol and also use tobacco.
People who are obese may have an increased risk of several types of cancer, including cancers of the breast (in women who have been through menopause), colon, rectum, endometrium (lining of the uterus), esophagus, kidney, pancreas, and gallbladder.
Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar level to become too high. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or the cells in the body don’t react to insulin. This means glucose stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy.
Type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you are feeling fine. But diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys
The less active you are, the greater your risk of type 2 diabetes. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
Being overweight is a main risk factor for type 2 diabetes
Red meat and processed red meat are both linked to type 2 diabetes. Processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats are particularly bad because of their high levels of sodium and nitrites. Research has shown that one 3-ounce serving per day of red meat—about the size of a deck of cards—increased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 19 percent. For an even smaller amount of processed red meat, the increase was 51 percent.
Sugary beverages like sodas, sweet teas, and lemonade are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, presumably because the excess calories lead to weight gain and because the sugar load might increase insulin resistance.
Unhealthy saturated and trans fat as well as highly processed carbohydrates such as those made with white flour, white sugar and white rice are also a risk for type 2 diabetes.
Obesity is a medical condition that occurs when a person carries excess weight or body fat that might affect their health. People with this condition are at a higher risk for serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The rise in obesity among adults and children is due mainly to over-consumption of foods high in fats, carbohydrates and salt.
Physical inactivity is primary contributor to the obesity epidemic. Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality and doubles the risk of obesity and other lifestyle diseases.
Did you notice anything as you read about the diseases and risk factors above?
There are all intertwined.
All the lifestyle diseases tend to have the same risk factors and some of the diseases are themselves risk factors for the other diseases.
That is truly amazing. If we develop good life habits we will decrease our risk of several diseases all at once.
Just imagine, if we do these 3 things, we will see a significant reduction of risk of all the non-communicable – lifestyle – diseases.
- Increase physical activity
- Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats. Decrease or eliminate meat from the diet.
- Cut out smoking and alcohol consumption.
Don’t let bad habits rob you of health. Make the right choices.
Do you want more information on how to attain and maintain good health? Check out 8 Steps to Good Health and learn how to live a long and healthy life.