MANAGING LIFESTYLE DISEASE
One of the not-so-pleasant facts of life is that actions have consequences. It sometimes seems like life would be much more fun if people could live as they pleased without unpleasant consequences lurking around the corner. An area of life where this fact is rather obvious is in lifestyle diseases. As they lie down confined to the bed, a wheelchair or hanging onto life through the help of life-long medication, many people look back with regret on the choices that they made that brought them to their health challenge one piece at a time. As they look back, all that period seems like just yesterday but the journey ahead – viewed through the unpleasant reality of pain or deformity – seems unending.
Lifestyle diseases are health conditions affecting a person which are directly or indirectly linked to certain lifestyles lived over a certain period of time. Because people in a certain geographical location, gender and age group tend to have common lifestyles, lifestyle diseases often follow patterns related to these groups. In this article, you will learn about common lifestyle diseases and how to manage your life if you or a loved one has a lifestyle disease.
Heart disease: This is a broad term that encompasses conditions like atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, ischaemic heart disease, heart attack and heart failure. These conditions are all related although they can arise independent of one another. According to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the leading cause of death globally in the last two decades with the number of deaths rising to about 9 million in 2019.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which there is deposition of significant amounts of fats in the walls of blood vessels. This comes mainly from consumption of red meat and a high fat diet over a long time. When this fat deposits in the coronary arteries which supply oxygenated blood to the heart, the arteries become narrow, reducing blood
supply to the part affected. If this obstruction is not relieved, the part of the heart affected can become ischaemic, causing angina or causing the heart to stop suddenly.
Hypertensive heart disease: Hypertension is a silent killer disease which has a lifestyle component among its causes. People whose family members have the condition are more likely than others to develop it. However, others can develop it on their own from long-term consumption of a high-salt diet. Obesity and sedentary living can also predispose a person to having the condition.
Hypertension increases the load on the heart as it has to work against greater tension in order to pump blood around the body. If this goes on for long, the heart can eventually fail. Hypertension is also a well-known risk factor for stroke.
Diabetes mellitus: This is a disorder resulting mainly from impairment of carbohydrates due to deficiency of insulin or insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone responsible for converting excess glucose in your blood to glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscle. Where this function is lacking, glucose builds up in your blood causing the complications that come with diabetes.
Risk factors for diabetes can be classified into modifiable and non-modifiable factors. Non-modifiable factors include family history and genetics, while modifiable factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, huge consumption of sugary food and so on.
Cerebrovascular accident: This can be either a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Both conditions result from damage to the arteries supplying blood to the brain. Stroke can be either ischaemic or haemorrhagic. In ischaemic stroke, there is narrowing or outright blockage of the artery supplying a part of the brain. This can come from atherosclerosis of the affected artery. It can also result from a mobile clot big enough to get stuck along the course of the artery. The affected part of the brain is starved of glucose and oxygen and literally dies.
In a hemorrhagic stroke, the artery supplying blood to a part of the brain ruptures, leading to bleeding into the brain tissue. This often occurs due to hypertension. The
affected part of the brain no longer gets good blood supply, gets compressed by the bleeding and eventually dies.
How to Manage Lifestyle Diseases
While lifestyle diseases may be caused by other factors in addition to lifestyle, making appropriate lifestyle modifications has been shown to delay or even prevent them. For example, there is a lot of benefit from living an active life by exercising regularly and maintaining a normal body-mass index. By burning off excess fats, you reduce your chances of developing diabetes mellitus and atherosclerosis with its sequelae of heart disease and stroke.
Also, an active lifestyle and a healthy diet that contains no huge amounts of fat, sugar or salt will cut down your risks of developing obesity, diabetes and hypertensive heart disease.
The key to managing lifestyle diseases is to identify the modifiable risk factors and bring them under control through a deliberate adjustment of your lifestyle. However, if you are already diagnosed with any of these conditions, cutting down the modifiable factors can delay the progression of the disease but may not cure it. In that case, you need to adopt a combined approach which incorporates the treatment your doctor provides with the appropriate lifestyle modifications.
Tabish, SA. (2017). Lifestyle diseases: Consequences, characteristics, causes and control. Retrieved from https://medcraveonline.com/JCCR/lifestyle-diseases-consequences-characteristics-cau ses-and-control.html
WHO. (2020). WHO reveals leading causes of death and disability worldwide: 2000-2019. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news/item/09-12-2020-who-reveals-leading-causes-of-death-an d-disability-worldwide-2000-2019