Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization) are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer. Such diseases do not spread from one person to another through touch, air, food, water or sexual contacts. These diseases may develop in a person due to faulty eating and living habits. Lifestyle diseases can be prevented by small but persistent changes in lifestyle. Learn How to prevent Lifestyle disorders by Dr. Sanjiv Haribhakti.
What is a lifestyle?
A lifestyle is the pattern of living that we follow – how we work, what and when we eat, how and when we sleep, how much physical activity we do and whether we smoke or consume alcohol.
What is a disease?
A disease is a pathological condition that affects an organism, and is often associated with specific symptoms and signs. Long standing or chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity may not have symptoms or signs, but are known to cause serious complications if untreated in the long term.
What are Lifestyle diseases?
Diseases are of several types ie genetic, cancers etc, but the most common types of diseases are:
1. Communicable or Infectious diseases: develop due to spread of infections
2. Noncommunicable or Lifestyle diseases: Some diseases do not spread from one person to another through touch, air, food, water or sexual contacts. These diseases may develop in a person due to faulty eating and living habits. These diseases are called life style diseases.
Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization) are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer.
Lifestyle or non-communicable diseases(NCD) are chronic (long term) in nature and cause dysfunction in the body and impair the quality of life. They may also lead to death. These diseases usually develop relatively over long periods. In the beginning there may not be any symptoms but after the disease sets in there may be a long period of impaired health. This leads to reduction in productivity and development of the country. As these are chronic conditions they are a financial burden for lifetime. Therefore, there is an increasing concern these days about lifestyle diseases that can be easily prevented but not cured.
Lifestyle disease potentially can be prevented by changes in diet, environment, and lifestyle.
Which are the common diseases occurring due to disturbed lifestyle?
Some of the most common lifestyle diseases include:
Type 2 diabetes
GERD & Hiatus Hernia
Some types of cancers
Fatty Liver, NASH, Liver cirrhosis
Chronic renal failure
Chronic obstructive lung disease
What are the factors responsible for Lifestyle diseases?
Diet and lifestyle are major factors thought to influence susceptibility to many diseases. Drug abuse, tobacco smoking, and alcohol drinking, as well as a lack of exercise may also increase the risk of developing certain diseases, especially later in life.
You must have observed that
i) More and more young people are seen smoking and drinking despite knowing the fact that these are harmful to health.
ii) Our nutritious and balanced meals are giving way to fast food and junk food, fresh fruits and vegetables are being rejected in favour of processed and packed food and soft drinks are replacing milk.
iii) We prefer to use a motorbike or car instead of walking even for short distances.
iv) More and more machines are being developed each day to reduce physical labour associated with our work.
All the above practices have led to our becoming overweight and obese. Obesity is excess body-weight than normal or ideal weight for our height. Obesity is the main underlying causes for other lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.
The lifestyle factors associated with these diseases can be of two types
1. Modifiable (those that can be changed) like food habits, physical activity level, addiction (smoking, tobacco and alcohol) and stress.
2. Non-modifiable (those that cannot be changed) like age and heredity.
Are Lifestyle diseases on the rise in India?
The health of youth is getting affected by three factors: People are getting busier with their jobs, technology is leading to changes in sleep and lifestyle patterns, and with more disposable income health has taken a back seat as they give attention to other things. Social prosperity comes with inherent health risks. The nature of diseases too changes – emanating from depravity to excess of nutrition. In the last 25-30 years, our society has evolved and hence it is obvious that ongoing risks will also emerge.
Lifestyle diseases are on a tremendous rise in India, especially in the young productive age group. I personally see at least 4-5 young patients daily with lifestyle disease. This has inspired me to write about this problem.
Do lifestyle diseases occur only in the rich?
India is projected to experience more deaths from NCDs such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer than any other country over the next decade. It is usually believed that such diseases are far more common among the rich, especially in developing countries like India, which still have a high burden of infectious diseases.
The poor in India don’t suffer from fewer “lifestyle diseases” than the rich — they just don’t know it. A new study shows that the actual prevalence of common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is far higher among the poor than they report, and is as high if not higher among the poor than among the rich.
What can we learn from the experience of Western countries?
In many Western countries, people began to eat more meat, dairy products, vegetable oils, sugary foods, and alcoholic beverages during the latter half of the 20th century. People also developed sedentary lifestyles and greater rates of obesity. Rates of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer started increasing after this dietary change. People in developing countries, whose diets still depend largely on low-sugar starchy foods with little meat or fat have lower rates of these cancers. It is time we learn from these experiences of the west, and do not allow excessive westernization to affect our lifestyles and predispose us to more deadly lifestyle diseases.
How to prevent Lifestyle disorders?
The good news is that Lifestyle diseases can be prevented by small but persistent changes in lifestyle. For prevention of life style diseases, people need to change their habits in the direction of healthier living. You can do a lot to prevent the occurrence of lifestyle diseases.
TEN healthy tips are:-
i) Take up regular exercise like walking, yoga, dancing, aerobics or cycling one hour a day.
ii) Use stair-case instead of lift or escalator as far as you can.
iii) Take a balanced diet at proper meal times. Do not over-eat.
iv) Avoid processed and packaged foods that are rich in sugar, fats, salt and calories and low in fiber, good quality protein, minerals (iron and calcium) and vitamins.
v) Eat whole grains like cereals (wheat, whole wheat flour), millets (jowar, bajra) and avoid refined foods like maida.
vi) Eat 400 – 500 gms of seasonal fruits and vegetables in a day.
vii) Drink plenty of water.
viii) Practice yoga or meditation to avoid stress in life.
ix) Keep away from Smoking, Tobaccco and drinking alcohol.
x) Spend less time in sitting and watching television and pursue outdoor games and activities like gardening, playing a sport like football, cricket and badminton.
You can educate people around you regarding healthy lifestyle practices. It is possible to keep these diseases under control, if you make sensible alteration in your lifestyle.
What can we learn from Ayurveda for a healthy and balanced lifestyle?
Basically, a particular lifestyle of person is a cumulative product of his/her physical capacity co-ordinated with psychological functioning, displayed in the form of habits, behaviour, dietary and living pattern based on his own training sought from childhood, and mimicries he gained from his immediate companions including parents, siblings, peers, etc. Thus, it involves a pure psychological and innate control over the physical and sensory activities. When this initiation, control, and co-ordination are disturbed, it leads to the derangement of lifestyle and results in any lifestyle disorder. Ayurveda narrated this phenomenon as ‘Prajnaparadha’ (intellectual blasphemy). In the management of lifestyle diseases, Ayurveda offers various regimens including Dinacharya (daily regimen), Ritucharya (seasonal regimen), Panchakarma (five detoxification and bio-purification therapies), and Rasayana (rejuvenation) therapies. The Sadvritta (ideal routines) and Aachara Rasayana (code of conduct) are utmost important to maintain a healthy and happy psychological perspective. The inclusive utilization of all these treatment modalities has a great effect on lifestyle disorders.
What is the future prediction for Lifestyle disorders?
A report on non-communicable diseases released by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently, paints a grim picture of India. The risk of dying from a non-communicable disease (NCD) for persons aged between 30 and 70 years in India is as high as 26 per cent, according to a report released by WHO recently. What’s more, Indian males are more prone to dying of these diseases than women. The number of people suffering from the four main NCDs—heart diseases, all types of cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes is also high. This challenges the notion that NCDs primarily occur among older adults.
The report shows that India does not have in place either a multi sectoral plan to reduce NCDs in relation with risk factors, or a proper monitoring and surveillance system. The country also lacks a national population-based cancer registry.
If one considers the global picture, developing countries show dismal performance. “Our latest data show that 85 per cent of premature deaths from NCDs occur in developing countries. The challenges presented by these diseases are enormous,” said WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan.
Thirty-eight million people die each year from the four main NCDs. Over 14 million deaths from NCDs occur between the ages of 30 and 70, of which 85 per cent are in developing countries. These premature deaths are largely preventable by governments implementing simple measures which reduce risk factors for NCDs and enable health systems to respond, says the report.
The report notes that the number of NCD deaths has increased worldwide and in every region since 2000. NCD deaths have increased the most in regions South-East Asia and Western Pacific. “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message. “The global epidemic of non-communicable diseases is a major and growing challenge to development.”
The international community agreed in 2011 on a Global NCD Action Plan. This plan aims to reduce the number of premature deaths from NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025, in part by addressing factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity that increase people’s risk of developing these diseases.
The UN secretary-general said that “success will depend on finding new ways to strengthen the ability of countries to adopt bolder measures,” and called for strong leadership and action from governments and the private sector.
What can Government and people can do for Lifestyle diseases?
India is a young country where we are seeing an increasing number of lifestyle diseases. In the future, unless we become self-aware, these diseases are likely to increase on an exponential basis and cause an epidemic in India, and thus it needs urgent attention, not only by the government and NGO, but more importantly by people themselves, and the private healthcare organisations involved in medical care. The need of the hour is to take self-ownership of health.
Education, continuous public awareness and adopting more self-control measures in life are the only ways to manage lifestyle diseases. Meanwhile healthcare providers have a great responsibility to ensure that the best advice and treatment are provided to patients.