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Lifestyle diseases

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readers did not see that one is ‘pro’ while the other is ‘pre’. Yes, I discussed probiotics and later Prebiotics. We need to be paying attention to details.

Each time anything is touted to be a super food, humans go overboard with the consumption. It occurred to me that because we said fermented pap water and uncooked pap have good bacteria in them, people may start taking pap excessively. We should not forget that pap is a carbohydrate and should be taken in moderation. You should be even more cautious if you are diabetic.  This reminds me of COVID. When it was studied, it was discovered to be a zoonotic disease but because humans go beyond their boundaries by eating everything, we got infected. Going beyond the threshold with the consumption of herbs or any other thing may cause unpalatable health reactions.

This week, I will like to remind us that our lifestyles can impact our health negatively. Basically, in a broad sense, our lifestyle leads to lifestyle diseases. This includes erratic eating habits – irregular, binge-eating, dependency on comfort food, which are very common. Similarly, daily habits like low physical activity, neglect of mental health, smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs and more are part of the causes.

The causes of lifestyle diseases can be divided into two groups:

  1. Indirect causes: These are the ones resulting from the progressive industrialization and pollution of the environment. You cannot fully protect yourself against them.
  2. Direct causes: These include a sedentary lifestyle, low physical activity, heavy alcohol consumption, unbalanced diet, smoking as well as lack of rest. These factors can be limited or completely eliminated.

Some lifestyle diseases are cancer, hypertension, diabetes, being overweight, obesity and depression.

The good news is that these diseases can be prevented and even reversed. However, this requires a sustainable behaviour change. It is just like taking yourself out of the mess you put yourself into! I once shared what Dr Chidi Ngwaba, who specialises in lifestyle medicine said. I will like to share it again. He said, “You need a healthy plant-based diet. Every time you go for a meal and you are a diabetic, as you put your fork down, you should get up and go for a walk. He went on to say, “I have told you quite boldly that anybody with Type 2 diabetes does not have to live with it, it is completely reversible. Change your lifestyle and get rid of it.” This is very true because type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease.

Countless times, I have talked about Chris Wark here. In 2003, at the age of 26, he was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. He had surgery but instead of chemotherapy, he used nutrition and natural therapies to heal himself. He is still alive today and he is cancer free!

While we are not able to completely eliminate indirect causes, we can do a lot in the case of direct ones.

Let us see some ways to prevent these lifestyle diseases:

  1. Eat a balanced and healthy diet: This is the age of the fulfillment of Thomas Edison’s prophecy. Over a hundred years ago he said “the doctors of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs but rather will cure and prevent diseases with nutrition” A lot of positive changes in the body can happen even when only the diet is modified. While on the role of nutrition in achieving optimal health series, I suggest the Mediterranean diet which is based on the traditional foods of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Spain, Greece and Italy as our blueprint. Research has shown that people living in these regions tend to be healthier and have a lower risk of many chronic conditions. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet is plant foods. It is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, olive oil and seasoning with herbs and spices. Moderate amounts of dairy, poultry and eggs are part of the Mediterranean diet, as is seafood.

By making conscious choices about what you eat and maintaining a balanced diet, you can boost your overall well-being, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and enjoy a longer, more fulfilling life.

  1. Regular examinations: To prevent chronic diseases or catch them early, visit your doctor regularly for medical check-ups. If you notice any disturbing symptoms, it is necessary to see a doctor as soon as possible.
  2. Physical activity: According to the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, the minimum dose of physical activity per week for adults is 150 minutes. Regular physical activity can help prevent or manage chronic diseases. Aim for moderate intensity physical activity (like brisk walking or gardening) for at least 150 minutes a week.
  3. Avoiding stress: Stress causes the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, high concentrations of which, sustained for a long time, may disturb the functioning of the body. In order to minimize the negative effect of stress, it is worth learning relaxation techniques and making sure you have time to rest during the day.
  4. Getting enough sleep: The body, its cells and tissues regenerate during sleep. New research shows for the first time that important immune cells called microglia which play an important role in reorganizing the connections between nerve cells, fighting infections and repairing damage are also primarily active while we sleep.
  5. Know your family history: If you have a family history of a chronic disease, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, you may be more likely to develop the diseases yourself. Share your family health history with your doctor who can help you take steps to prevent these conditions.
  6. Avoid drinking too much alcohol: Over time, excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure, various cancers, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. By not drinking too much, you can reduce these health risks.

A study titled Occupational lifestyle diseases: An emerging issue by Mukesh Sharma et al concludes that the western lifestyle, characterized by convenience food, TV and PCs, is taking its toll on children as well as adults and is producing increased numbers of overweight, passive youngsters with lifestyle diseases.

A study titled ‘Chronic diseases of lifestyle risk factor profiles of a South African rural community’ by Akindele et al concludes that physical inactivity, sedentary lifestyle and hypertension were among the lifestyle-related risk factors for chronic diseases among residents of this rural community.

A study titled ‘Physical activity, exercise, and chronic diseases: A brief review by Elizabeth Anderson et al’ concludes that including PA (physical activity) and exercise into daily lifestyle activities provides multiple health benefits, promote societal growth and provide long-term chronic disease prevention and treatment while improving overall global health. Thus, PA and exercise provide a non-invasive means for added chronic disease prevention and treatment.

Let me leave you with these quotes. They will be a constant reminder on how to prevent lifestyles diseases:

He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” – Chinese Proverb

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato

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