What Causes Lifestyle Diseases and Can They Be Prevented?

Don't fall victim to lifestyle diseases

A lifestyle disease is a disease linked to the way a person is living. Lifestyle diseases result in chronic diseases or noncommunicable diseases.[1] These terms are often used interchangeably. It is possible to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases.

Common lifestyle diseases include heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more.[2] One major contributing factor to developing some of these diseases is how we live; in fact, our lifestyle primarily controls our risk of developing such diseases. Luckily, because we can change how we live, we could reduce our risk of developing such diseases by … well, changing our lifestyle: the foods we eat (or don’t eat), our exercise habits, stress levels, etc. In fact, our lifestyle is what primarily controls our risk of developing such diseases.

Of course, the saying “easier said than done” rings true here. Changing our lifestyle habits can be especially hard to do. However, in some cases it could cost you your life. We hope this would be enough motivation to make any necessary changes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides that six out of ten adults in the United States have a chronic disease, and four have multiple![3] The World Health Organization predicted that the portion of the global burden of disease that noncommunicable diseases are responsible for would reach 57 percent by this year.[4] Cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes had the most prevalence and worrying trends.

Lifestyle Diseases

Causes and Prevention

Risk factors consist of behavioral factors, biological factors, and societal factors.

Diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption can increase your risk of chronic disease; these are behavioral factors. Biological factors include certain pre-existing medical conditions, age, and genes. Lastly, societal factors include various socioeconomic, cultural, and other environmental criteria. Risk factors have also been characterized as modifiable behavioral factors, non-modifiable, and metabolic risk factors.[5]

The International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review states that chronic diseases usually affect middle-aged or older people after consistent living of an unhealthy lifestyle composed of those behavioral factors we mentioned: tobacco use, overconsumption of alcohol, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and prolonged work.[6] [7]

These behavioral risk factors of chronic disease can be avoided. Eat better, exercise, and make time for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Doing all this won’t only reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease, but can also improve your quality of life, increase your life expectancy, and ultimately save you money. How, you might ask?

Well, a disease obviously has to do with your health and affects it, and bad health can make it hard to enjoy living. The amount of money you spend on health care is also likely to go up when you get a lifestyle disease. In fact, those with chronic conditions use health care the most in the United States and are responsible for the majority of health spending.[8]

However, while you can change your lifestyle and habits, you can’t do anything about your genetic susceptibility, age, and other factors. But that’s okay since lifestyle diseases are primarily caused by modifiable lifestyle factors.

Let’s discuss further just how you can prevent the burden of a chronic disease from happening to you, specifically in two ways: diet and physical activity.

Diet and Physical Activity

M.J. Pappachan of the Department of Medicine at Grantham & District Hospital says that one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a type of lifestyle disease, is higher body weight.[9] We can manage our weight through diet and exercise. Nutrition and health are closely related, so it makes sense that a history of poor eating can contribute to health challenges.[10] A healthier, balanced diet can improve one’s health as well as getting adequate physical activity.

Nutrition has been used since ancient times for healing and health purposes. Why stray from it now? It’s the most natural method of treatment, not calling for synthetic medications and the like.

The right nutrients (which come from food) can help improve health, correct problems, and strengthen as well as maintain health. Depending on your condition, you might have to consume more good stuff, like fruits and vegetables, than someone else.

For instance, at Balance of Nature, we advise you take three of our Fruits and three of our Veggies capsules daily. The added nutrition can help you maintain health and avoid illness. If you are experiencing some kind of slight deterioration in health, you should up your intake to six of each. Someone with a life-threatening condition would need twice that amount (twelve and twelve) to supply the body with the extra nutrition it needs to recruit and repair. As your health improves, you can gradually decrease the intake.

Fruits contain various compounds including fiber, antioxidant nutrients, and phytonutrients that can slow and help prevent certain health conditions.[11] Vegetables do too. This is the benefit of upping your produce intake.

Fatma Al-Maskari, an associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, at United Arab Emirates University, says that specifically eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet as well as physical activity and other healthy behaviors reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality.[12] Other diets have been evaluated as well: a diet high in fat and salt intake, low in carbohydrates, and low in fruits and vegetables was shown to lead to the development of risk factors, whereas a diet low in fat and high in unrefined carbs was shown to protect people from chronic disease.[13]

It can be hard to change routine behaviors and habits, but it’s necessary to do so for the sake of your health and quality of life. You may get discouraged along the way, but the important thing is to not give up—you can do it! Better health is worth it. Good health won’t just reduce your risk of disease, but will ultimately improve how you feel. Better health usually results in better mood, more energy, and productivity, improving your overall quality of life.

If you are experiencing ups and downs in your journey toward that better quality of life, there are things you can try to help you succeed in changing.

Succeeding

First, know that you can start small. No need to jump straight into the deep end of the pool; you can start with the toes and enter at your own pace. Introducing a few smaller, simpler habits can help you make a big adjustment in your lifestyle habits.

For example, before beginning a whole fitness program, you can make small adjustments in your day-to-day life to first increase your overall fitness level. Participating in more activity throughout the day is one way. Stretch or do some squats while watching television. You can also count normal daily activities like walking around the house, at the store, or even to and from your car as exercise. It’s recommended to walk at least 30 to 45 minutes a day.[14] If you can, try walking an hour a day!

Start setting aside some time for activity, and plan it. Also, find support! Having someone like-minded to encourage you and hold you accountable could make all the difference. As your fitness level improves, implement more activities or increase their intensity. But be sure to listen to your body—if you’re not ready for intense, high-impact workouts, then you’re not ready. There’s no shame in that. Pushing yourself too hard can result in injury, and that would be a real setback. You can get there eventually; just ease into it.

Setting goals can also help. This allows you to remember what you want to accomplish and can act as a motivator.[15] Setting goals could also help you be more mindful of your actions.

Now, getting started is only half the battle—sticking to it is when true success can happen. Consistent exercise is what gets you the result you’re looking for: better health.

HelpGuide suggests following these tips:

  • Ditch the “all or nothing” approach
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Check expectations
  • Bust excuses

Like we discussed, there’s no need to jump all in and go so hard so fast. You could hurt yourself, and we don’t want that. We do admire such enthusiasm, but don’t let it potentially ruin your experience. Some is better than none, after all. A little can go a long way.

And while it may be frustrating that you can’t dive right in, beating yourself up about it may just discourage you and increase your likelihood of failure. Take a forward-looking approach. Looking past mistakes and setbacks, you’ll see there is really only one way to go—up. And growth is what we’re shooting for here.

Also, keep in mind that your health didn’t get to where it is in one night; it’s been over the course of a lifetime. And actually, it won’t take nearly as long to improve the state of it. Be patient and focus on remaining consistent. Only then will results come (in due time).

In addition, making excuses is something to avoid. Even busy people make time for what’s important to them; it’s up to you to make your health a priority in your life. After all, you wouldn’t be able to participate in the things you love without it. And remember, it’s never too late.[16]

While we applied these principles and tips to physical activity, they can be applied to most any change you’re trying to make and succeed at maintaining.

For improving diet specifically, try doing the following things:

  • Replace unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fat) with unsaturated or beneficial fats
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grain products
  • Limit sugar intake (drinks included)
  • Avoid excessive caloric intake
  • Limit consumption of sodium[17]
  • Opt for whole foods instead of processed foods
  • Have healthy food readily available
  • Stick to the areas of the grocery store with healthy foods
  • Snack on some nuts and seeds
  • Focus on quality rather than just quantity
  • Up your intake of probiotic foods[18]

Also, throughout your health journey, keep in mind why you are trying to improve. Remember all that being healthier can do for you—those things we talked about: better mood, energy, productivity, quality of life, and even a longer life.[19] Or, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, remembering your reason(s) why can help you stay on track and stay motivated.

We know, we know: easier said than done, right? What do we say to that? Well, you won’t know until you try.

Management

If you already have a chronic disease, don’t worry. Some of the ways you can prevent chronic diseases are also some of the ways you can manage it. Chronic disease can be manageable through early detection, improved diet, exercise, and treatment therapy.[20]

According to S A Tabish of Sher-i Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, an important part of controlling noncommunicable diseases is by controlling the risk factors associated with them. It takes various participants from health, finance, education, planning, and other sectors to help minimize the impact of lifestyle diseases. In order to manage a lifestyle disease, Tabish says one must undergo proper diagnosis, screening, and treatment as well as palliative care if needed. [21] But most importantly, it starts with you.

"Your health is your responsibility,” says Dr. Douglas Howard, founder and formulator of Balance of Nature. “Your health is affected more by your daily choices than by any other controllable factor.”

Mladen Golubic, MD, PhD, agrees that the healthy behaviors used to help prevent chronic conditions can also be used to help manage them. Additionally, if individuals need extra help, a number of interventions are available such as nutritional counseling, exercise training, and stress management techniques. These can be available in lifestyle modification programs, which have proven very effective.[22]

The Last Bite

Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and others caused by unhealthy lifestyles have been on the rise. This has been attributed to poor diet, a lack of adequate physical activity, and other behaviors. Unhealthy behaviors along with other factors increase the risk of developing such diseases.

Fortunately, we can lower our risk of chronic disease and manage any existing chronic conditions by changing our lifestyle habits for the better, most especially diet and exercise habits. And although this can be a hard feat to accomplish, it’s worth trying to have a healthier, happier life. The good news is, you aren’t left to fend for yourself. There are resources available to help educate and help promote healthier living, increasing your chances for success.

Dr. Douglas Howard, founder and formulator of Balance of Nature, summed it up well when he said, “In order to take full control of your health, you must educate yourself, set goals, and make good choices. No one cares more about the way you feel than you do. Take responsibility. It is the best thing you can do for your current and future health.”

[1] Fatma Al-Maskari, “LIFESTYLE DISEASES: An Economic Burden on the Health Services | UN Chronicle,” UN Chronicle (United Nations, July 2010), https://unchronicle.un.org/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services.
[2] Shiel, William C. “Medical Definition of Lifestyle Disease.” MedicineNet. (MedicineNet, Inc., January 24, 2017), https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=38316.
[3] “Chronic Diseases in America.” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 23, 2019), https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm.
[4] “2. Background,” Nutrition (World Health Organization, June 22, 2007), https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/2_background/en/.
[5] S A Tabish, “Lifestyle Diseases: Consequences, Characteristics, Causes and Control,” Journal of Cardiology & Current Research (MedCrave Publishing, July 21, 2017), https://medcraveonline.com/JCCR/lifestyle-diseases-consequences-characteristics-causes-and-control.html.
[6] Senapati, Sabyasachi, Neetu Bharti, and Amit Bhattacharya. “Modern Lifestyle Diseases: Chronic Diseases, Awareness and Prevention.” Delhi, India: (Excellent Publishers, July 2015).
[7] “Lifestyle Risk Factors,” Lifestyle Risk Factors (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 4, 2020), https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showLifestyleRiskFactorsMain.
[8] “PDF,” n.d.
[9] M.J. Pappachan, “Increasing Prevalence of Lifestyle Diseases: High Time for Action,” NCBI (Indian Journal of Medical Research, August 2011), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181012/.
[10] “Nutrition and Health Are Closely Related,” Introduction- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion), accessed July 6, 2020, https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/introduction/nutrition-and-health-are-closely-related/.
[11] Mary J. Feeney, “FRUITS AND THE PREVENTION OF LIFESTYLE‐RELATED DISEASES,” Wiley Online Library (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, January 11, 2005), https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1440-1681.2004.04104.x.
[12] Fatma Al-Maskari, “LIFESTYLE DISEASES: An Economic Burden on the Health Services | UN Chronicle,” UN Chronicle (United Nations, July 2010), https://unchronicle.un.org/article/lifestyle-diseases-economic-burden-health-services.
[13] Krisela Steyn and Albertino Damasceno, “Lifestyle and Related Risk Factors for Chronic Diseases,” Disease and Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa. 2nd edition. (U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 1, 1970), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2290/.
[14] “Walking: Your Steps to Health.” Harvard Health Publishing. (Harvard University, August 2009), https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health.
[15] “5 Steps to Start a Fitness Program,” Healthy Lifestyle Fitness (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, October 24, 2019), https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269.
[16] Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, and Melinda Smith, “How to Start Exercising and Stick to It,” HelpGuide (HelpGuide.org, June 2019), https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/how-to-start-exercising-and-stick-to-it.htm.
[17] Walter C. Willett et al., “Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes,” Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition. (U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 1, 1970), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/.
[18] Noma Nazish, “10 Simple Ways To Start Eating Healthier This Year,” Forbes (Forbes Magazine, January 9, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2018/01/09/10-simple-ways-to-start-eating-healthier-this-year/.
[19] Anahad O'Connor, “How to Start Working Out,” The New York Times | Smarter Living (The New York Times), accessed July 6, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/how-to-start-exercising.
[20] “PDF,” n.d.
[21] S A Tabish, “Lifestyle Diseases: Consequences, Characteristics, Causes and Control,” Journal of Cardiology & Current Research (MedCrave Publishing, July 21, 2017), https://medcraveonline.com/JCCR/lifestyle-diseases-consequences-characteristics-causes-and-control.html.
[22] Mladen Golubic, “Online Health Chat with Mladen Golubic, MD, PhD,” Lifestyle Choices: Root Causes of Chronic Diseases (Cleveland Clinic, January 14, 2013), https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1444_lifestyle-choices-root-causes-of-chronic-diseases.