Written by Carrie Company
Although chronic lifestyle diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems, they are also among the most preventable. Prevention encompasses health promotion activities that encourage healthy living. Prevention is all about early detection efforts and strategies for the management of existing diseases and complications.
What are the causes of lifestyle disease? Lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use (the single most avoidable cause of disease, disability, and death), and excessive alcohol consumption (the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death).
1) The health benefits of quitting smoking are numerous, and many are experienced rapidly. Within 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, heart attack risk begins to drop, and lung function begins to improve. One year after quitting, the excess risk for heart disease is reduced by half, and 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a current smoker. Fifteen years after quitting, an ex-smoker’s risk for heart disease is about the same as that of a lifelong nonsmoker.
2) Lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, including a 5%–7% maintained weight loss and at least 150 minutes per week in physical activity, can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes for Americans at high risk for the disease. Participants in a major clinical trial group exercised at moderate intensity, usually by walking an average of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and lowered their intake of fat and calories. Their efforts resulted in a sustained weight loss of about 10 to 15 pounds, reducing their risk of getting diabetes by 58%.
3) An adult with healthy blood pressure and healthy blood cholesterol levels has a greatly reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. A 12- to 13-point reduction in systolic blood pressure can reduce cardiovascular disease deaths by 25%, and a 10% decrease in total cholesterol levels reduces the risk for coronary heart disease by 30%.
4) Improved glycemic control benefits people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In general, every percentage point drop in A1c blood test results (e.g., from 8.0% to 7.0%) can reduce the risk of microvascular complications (eye, kidney, and nerve diseases) by 40%. Among people with diabetes, annual eye and foot exams can reduce vision loss and lower-extremity amputations.
5) Early diagnosis and appropriate management of arthritis, including self-management activities, can help people with arthritis decrease pain, improve function, and stay productive.
The World Health Organization has estimated that if the major risk factors for chronic lifestyle disease were eliminated, at least 80% of all heart disease and type 2 diabetes would be prevented and more than 40% of cancer cases would be prevented.