Poor lifestyle choices and lack of knowledge or access to preventative health care have led to an epidemic of chronic diseases in the past few decades and it shows no signs of slowing down. As a result, chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases, have been rising at a dramatic rate, and have become the leading cause of death and disability, accounting for nearly 70% of deaths.
Chronic diseases affect every aspect of our life, worsening the quality and enjoyment we get out of life, eventually resulting in a shortened life span. Its basically an incurable health condition that requires consistent medical care and management.
The unfortunate truth is that most of these diseases are highly preventable. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that of the leading causes of death in the United States, around 60% are caused by cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and nearly 80% of those deaths could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.
One of the most common chronic conditions associated with cardiovascular diseases is obesity, which refers to a BMI of 30 or higher or a weight of 30 lbs. over the recommended weight for a person's height. A staggering 66% (that's 2 out of 3 people) of Americans over the age of 20 are overweight (BMI over 25), with 34% being obese (.BMI over 30). The same trend is seen among young people below the age of 20.
Excessive body weight is associated with myriad of health risks besides cardiovascular diseases, like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, some types of cancers, complications in pregnancy, shortened life expectancy, and in general a decreased quality of life.
Apart from obesity, high cholesterol levels is another hidden killer. A healthy total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL, while higher than 240 mg/dL is considered high-risk, with intermediate levels termed borderline. Persistent and prevalent poor diet and lifestyle choices have led to an alarmingly high, 50% of adults, with borderline or higher levels of cholesterol.
Type 2 diabetes is sadly another very common lifestyle driven disease affecting nearly 25 million in US alone. In this condition, blood glucose is unable to enter cells where they are needed for energy, because the pancreas is unable to produce insulin (the carrier hormone for glucose), or the cells have become insulin resistant, leaving a surplus of circulating glucose in blood. More than 80% of all patients with type 2 diabetes have a history of excessive weight. If left unmanaged it can lead to a number of severe issues, such as nerve damage, vision loss, kidney damage, compromised immune function etc.
Another form of chronic diseases are musculoskeletal injuries and pain and have become increasingly prevalent as a result of sedentary jobs and lack of movement.
Low-back pain is a primary cause of musculoskeletal degeneration affecting nearly 80% of all adults. Its found to be predominant in people working in enclosed spaces, like an office environment.
Musculoskeletal symptoms are the number two most common reason for physician visits. Every year, around 30 million visits are made to physician's offices for back problems, including more than 10 million visits for low-back problems. If you count the 20 million visits for knee problems, 15 million for shoulder problems, and 10 million for foot and ankle problems, it becomes patently obvious that we are dealing with a major health crisis.
The reason for this escalating pandemic is obvious. The WHO recognizes lack of physical activity as a major contributor for these chronic diseases. Few adults achieve the minimum recommended 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on 5 or more days per week. The diet of most people is a high fat, high sugar, highly processed mess, that is far away from meeting the criteria of a balanced healthy diet that provides all the macro and micro nutrients needed by the body. Misinformation and fad diets are rampant and special interest groups funded by meat and dairy industry control the "healthy" diet narrative such as "you need x amount of protein that you can only get from meat and dairy', 'carbs is the enemy of fat loss' etc. without any emphasis paid to balance of nutrients that our body needs and to basic science.
It's more important than ever to pay attention to science-based, factual information that is devoid of fads and focuses on essentials and gets down to the basics. Its time for a change.