It is not uncommon to hear about the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices unless, of course, you live under a rock. Healthier lifestyle choices and their benefits are mentioned in the media, on talk shows, with family, friends, and co-workers. Health warning labels plaster cigarette packages.
But does living a healthy lifestyle really make a difference, or is it just the latest fad? This post takes a closer look at which diseases if any can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle.
What are lifestyle diseases?
Lifestyle diseases are diseases caused by healthy damaging choices you can make in your everyday life. Lifestyle diseases are brought about by inactivity (the couch potato lifestyle), unhealthy meals (processed foods loaded with salt, fat, and sugars), addictions such as alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes, poor stress management techniques, and pollution. These diseases are non-communicable.
Lifestyle diseases start from the inside and take years to develop. Once they are diagnosed, they do not want to go away without a fight. Yes, that´s right, unfortunately, they don´t bow out gracefully and leave when first discovered.
Lifestyle disorders can cause:
- CVDs (cardiovascular diseases-heart attacks)
- type II diabetes
- metabolic syndrome (insulin-persistent syndrome)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases
- back injury
Insulin Resistance Syndrome or Metabolic Syndrome can contribute to many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart attacks, and some cancers. Some of its characteristics are an increase in waist size, low HDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, hypertension, and glucose intolerance. The direct causes are being overweight and inactive.
Your lifestyle is a major factor in controlling your risk of developing chronic diseases.
There seems to be a link between chronic disease and environmental factors. This link seems to indicate that hereditary may not necessarily be the primary cause of these diseases.
For some people, hereditary can play a role in acquiring some of these diseases, along with other factors such as age and gender.
Chronic illnesses are very high in highly developed societies. Migrants from low-risk countries (developing countries) once moving to high-risk countries increase their chances of getting chronic diseases.
For example, most chronic diseases are almost non-existent in Africa for example, according to reports by WHO (World Health Organization). The top two deadly diseases in the US are heart attacks and cancer, and in Western Europe, they are heart attacks and strokes.
Since the core of many chronic diseases seems to stem from environmental factors, there is a possibility to change the outcome and this is good news. It is possible to have lower rates of these diseases without the use of drugs or expensive medical facilities. These rates are significantly lower in developing countries, which have fewer medical facilities than developed ones.
Finland is one of the best-documented examples of community integration. In 1972, Finland had the world´s highest CVD mortality rate.
There was a campaign for implementing healthier lifestyle choices for low-fat dairy products, improvements in school meals, and anti-smoking legislation.
The media, schools, worksites, influential sports figures, and agriculture were used to educate residents on the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices.
After five years, significant improvements were documented in smoking, cholesterol, and blood pressure. In 1992, CVD mortality rates for men between 35 to 64 years old dropped by 57%.
Most people assume that a healthy lifestyle choice is an individual decision. However, a healthy lifestyle isn´t only individual; it can also be societal. In the case of Finland, it clearly shows that your lifestyle plays a major role in controlling your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Some interesting Lifestyle Diseases Facts
Sixteen million people die prematurely each year from ages 35-to 60 due to unhealthy lifestyle disorders.
Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 31% of all global deaths.
Sedentary lifestyle causes deficiency of vitamins such as Vitamin D, which can result in diseases like osteoporosis.
6 out of 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 out of the 6; have multiple chronic illnesses.
A country´s military personnel are healthier than its national population because they lead healthy lifestyles, like regular exercise, good nourishment, and easy access to health care. (Quick note here; they are usually younger than the general population).
Obesity in children is on the rise.
Lifestyle diseases do not only affect adults but children as well. If parents eat unhealthily, then most likely, their kids will eat unhealthy too. Also, most children are used to/prefer fast food dinners; this only adds fire to the fuel.
Studies show that healthy lifestyle choices reduce the risk of developing deadly chronic diseases by 80%. There is an undeniable connection between health and lifestyle.
The sad fact is that even though many may know about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, only a few adults follow a healthy lifestyle routine.
What are healthy lifestyle choices?
Healthy lifestyle choices are not a quick fix. It will take commitment and dedication on your part. You have to turn those changes into routines, and then you´ll be able to do them automatically without much thought.
It means making changes in diet, exercise, stress management strategies, and dealing with unpleasant/unresolved feelings or expectations.
Eat more healthy foods. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Your snacks should come from fruits and vegetables.
Your immune system will greatly benefit from this daily lifestyle choice, plus your body will look and feel different. Your energy levels will be stable without drastic periods of spikes throughout the day.
Developing an exercise routine or going for long walks frequently, can greatly reduce your chances of having chronic diseases. Walking for a half-hour every day makes an incredible difference.
The longer the duration of exercise and the more intense the workout, the better the results. A word of caution here, you have to learn to walk before you can run.
Start small by walking and slowly increase the length or the intensity. Remember, before starting any exercise regimen, consult your doctor to see what is the best option for you to prevent injury.
Stress Management Techniques
Most people do not have healthy stress management techniques in place; for when stress arises. Many people choose to either ignore it by sweeping it under the carpet or delay addressing it for a later time, which seldom seems to come.
You need to deal with stress, whenever it comes and as often as it comes. There are many ways to deal with stress. Meditation, relaxation techniques, journaling (to confront and deal with unpleasant feelings/expectations, reflect on difficulties, identify any patterns that you were not aware of, and consciously change your behavior for the better), positive thinking, and even yoga.
You can´t enjoy life if you have poor health. Healthy lifestyle changes can greatly improve your quality of life, increase your life expectancy, and can save you money.
Battling a chronic disease may cost you time off of work, hospital stays which can be very costly, and the cost of health care required to treat chronic diseases.
Elevate your quality of life today.