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
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. Lifestyle diseases may develop in a person due to faulty eating and living habits. These diseases are called life style diseases. These appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer.Theseare 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. 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.
Some of the most common lifestyle diseases include: Atherosclerosis, Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, GERD & Hiatus Hernia, Hypertension, Dyspepsia (Indigestion), Constipation, Heart disease, some types of cancers, metabolic syndrome, etc.
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.
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 thatongoing risks will also emerge.
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.
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.
The good news is that Lifestyle diseases can be prevented by small but persistent changes in lifestyle. For prevention of lifestyle 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.
Some 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, Tobacco 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.
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.