The yearly increase in the number of individuals with chronic illnesses has been a major source of concern for health practitioners globally. The economic severity of chronic diseases is not quantifiable. Millions of dollars are budgeted yearly in the United States to attend to patients with chronic conditions. Also, the economic potentials of sick persons are affected as their productive capacities are limited. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable chronic conditions are responsible for over 38 million yearly deaths globally. Furthermore, over 25% of adults in the United States are believed to live with more than one chronic disease. Thus, it is widely known that chronic illnesses are the most general cause of mortality in the world.
What do we mean by chronic illness? When we say chronic diseases, we mean those disease conditions that tend to persist in effects for an extended period, usually above three months. Common examples of chronic diseases are stroke, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, arthritis, asthma, and cancer, diabetes, as well as viral diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Some chronic conditions are inheritable, while many others tend to develop independently of genetic factors. Some chronic illnesses are predominant among older persons than younger ones. Examples include cancer, obesity, and stroke. Even though the symptoms of most of these chronic sicknesses are controllable, it is very rare for affected individuals to return to normal healthfully. However, advancement in health practices has improved the average lifespans of people living with chronic conditions.
The proclivity of chronic diseases to affect our economic productivity, quality of life and social wellbeing has made it pertinent for every one of us to know the major causes of these conditions. Fortunately, most of the causal factors of chronic illnesses are things we can control individually. Below are four of the predominant causes of chronic diseases:
Poor Diet: To a large extent, the food we consume daily play a crucial role in our health conditions. Development of most chronic diseases is helped by intake of poor and unbalanced diets. Consumption of calorie-dense foods increases an individual’s susceptibility to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes. Over 30% of adults in the United States are estimated to suffer from obesity. The frequent incidence of obesity is helped by the fact that many individuals choose to consume highly processed and fatty diets, rather than traditional foods such as vegetables and fruits.
Furthermore, obesity is a risk factor for more severe chronic diseases like cancers, and diabetes. Another poor nutritional choice is excessive intake of salt which tend to raise an individual’s blood pressure, thus predisposing such a person to heart diseases. Also, excess salt increases the risk of stroke in susceptible people. Development of cancer in patients are also helped by discriminate consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, sports drinks as well as fruit-flavored drinks. In addition to the above-listed food, immoderate eating of starchy foods raises the blood sugar level of a person. Abnormal blood sugar level is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular ailments, stroke, and other chronic diseases. Most of these nutritional choices can be attributed to factors such as rising incomes, population growth and the increase in the average food consumption (regarding calories) around the world.
Lifestyle: Lifestyle choices such as smoking, excessive use of alcohol, use of tobacco, and short rest or sleep are major causes of common chronic illnesses. Our everyday choices and personal health habits are key factors in the development and progression of chronic diseases. For instance, a smoker is likely to suffer Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and cancer (lung, neck and head cancer). If such an individual doesn’t quit smoking, he/she may be affected by heart disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, 30% of all cancer-related deaths in the United States are caused by Smoking. On the other hand, indiscriminate consumption of alcohol causes many kinds of cancer. Even though it has been asserted that moderate intake of alcohol has some health benefits, excessive alcohol poses threat to healthy living. Unhealthy lifestyle choices may also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases during old age. Inadequate rest after stress can predispose an individual to cardiovascular diseases, asthma as well as heart attack.
Physical Inactivity: A static body or in other words constant inactiveness pose a serious threat to a healthy body. Lack of exercise makes an individual susceptible to many chronic diseases. A Harvard report on cancer prevention affirmed that constant inactivity is associated with five percent of chronic cancer cases. Also, arthritis – a chronic ailment – is mainly caused by poor exercising lifestyle. Physical inactivity can also worsen Fat-induced obesity. A sedentary lifestyle also has an adverse impact on individuals that are vulnerable to stroke and high blood pressure.
Social Factors: Various social factors cause chronic illnesses such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. These social factors include the conditions in which individuals grow, live, work, and carry out other activities. For instance, social factors such as low income, unemployment, lack of education, inadequate living conditions, as well as insecurity may cause an individual to take on certain lifestyles that may be deleterious to his/her health. Due to unemployment or low income, a girl may take into prostitution which may cause her to be infected with HIV/AIDS. Also, lack of education can affect an individual’s lifestyle choices (such as drug use, unbalanced diet) which may aid the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and asthma. Chronic ailments such as Type 2 diabetes has been found to be predominant in minority races and ethnicities, where many of these social conditions are the norms.
How Can You Reduce the Risk of Contacting Chronic Illnesses?
As noted earlier in the course of the article, most of the causes of chronic diseases can be corrected. Below are few ways by which you can reduce your risk of contracting chronic illnesses:
Eat a Healthy Diet: Consuming balanced diet is easily the best approach to preventing chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables should be included in every meal. Also, you should substitute water for sugary drinks as well as avoid taking late-night snacks. It is also important that you pay close attention to the number of calories you take in daily.
Avoid Smoking and Smokers: If you are a smoker, it is pertinent for you to stop, even though it may be difficult. Your physician is in the best position to give you tips on how best to stop this difficult habit.
Cultivate a Healthy Sleeping and Resting Habit: As simple as this may sound, it is necessary for you to avoid highly caffeinated beverages that may prevent you from getting a good sleep.
Exercise Regularly: Exercise can reduce your risk of contracting cancer, stroke or having abnormal blood sugar levels.
Above all, always remember that your health is your wealth. Make your body your priority today!
Photo Credit: Humanillnesses