Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), often referred to as chronic diseases, are diseases that are not transferred from one person to another.
They’re long-lasting and tend to progress slowly. The main types include cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes.
NCDs are alarmingly on the rise at a global scale. According to the World Health Organization, they account for almost 71% of all deaths worldwide.
This is not just a health concern, but also an economic one, as the treatments for these diseases can be prolonged and costly. Importantly, many of these deaths are premature and occur in people under 70 years of age. These startling statistics underscore the urgent need for effective prevention strategies.
10 ways to prevent non communicable diseases
In this article, we will look into proven strategies and lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce the risk of developing NCDs. From dietary choices to regular health check-ups, I recommend you sit tight let’s explore how each of us can take proactive steps towards a healthier future.
- Eat a Balanced Diet
Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts, are packed with essential nutrients that our bodies require for optimal functioning.
These nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants, play a critical role in strengthening our immune system, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and safeguarding our heart. By including a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables in our diet, we harness nature’s arsenal against diseases.
The Hidden Dangers of Processed and High-Sugar Foods
In contrast to the bounties of whole foods, processed and high-sugar foods can be detrimental to our health.
Often laden with unhealthy fats, sugars, and artificial additives, these foods can lead to weight gain, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, elevate blood pressure, and even contribute to heart diseases.
- Stay Physically Active
Physical activity, often touted as the “miracle drug” by health experts, holds immense power in combating non-communicable diseases.
At its core, regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, regulates blood sugar levels, maintains a healthy weight, and boosts mental well-being. Each of these benefits directly ties into reducing risks associated with chronic conditions.
For instance, by enhancing heart and lung function, exercise diminishes the chances of heart diseases and respiratory conditions. Remaining physically active remains one of the 10 ways to prevent non communicable diseases.
Here are some tips to make physical activity a natural part of your day:
- Opt for walking or cycling over driving for short distances. If using public transport, consider getting off a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.
- If you’re tied to a desk job, incorporate stretches or small exercises every hour. Stand up, walk around, or even use a standing desk.
- Choose active social activities over sedentary ones. Go for a hike, join a dance class, or simply take a walk with a friend.
- Believe it or not, chores like gardening, vacuuming, or even washing the car can burn calories and keep you active.
- Avoid Tobacco Use
Tobacco, both smoked and smokeless, remains a leading global menace. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year.
Over 7 million of those deaths result directly from tobacco use, while around 1.2 million result from non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke.
Alarmingly, tobacco usage is directly linked to cardiovascular diseases, cancers (especially lung cancer), respiratory diseases, and numerous other conditions, solidifying its role in the NCD crisis.
Benefits of Quitting Tobacco
The moment one decides to quit tobacco, the body begins its journey of healing:
- Within 20 minutes, the heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- 12 hours later, the carbon monoxide level in the blood returns to normal.
- Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases.
- After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- Long-term benefits include a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption:
While moderate alcohol consumption can have certain health benefits for some individuals, excessive and prolonged alcohol use is detrimental.
Heavy drinking is linked to a range of health problems, including liver diseases, cancers (like breast and throat), cardiovascular diseases, and even mental health disorders such as depression.
Balancing the Bottle: Guidelines for Moderate Alcohol Consumption
It’s essential to understand what constitutes moderate drinking to make informed decisions:
- For men, up to two drinks per day.
- For women, up to one drink per day. A “drink” refers to 14 grams of pure alcohol, approximately:
- 5 ounces of wine
- 12 ounces of beer
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (like whiskey or vodka)
- Prioritize Mental Health:
Our mental and physical well-being are deeply intertwined, each influencing the other in profound ways. Chronic stress, depression, and anxiety can lead to physiological changes, increasing the risk of heart diseases, hypertension, and even weakening the immune system.
Conversely, chronic physical ailments can contribute to mental health issues due to prolonged pain, reduced mobility, or a compromised quality of life.
- Regular Health Screenings
One of the most effective strategies against non-communicable diseases is early detection. Recognizing the signs and symptoms or identifying risk factors in their nascent stages can dramatically improve outcomes, increase survival rates, and reduce treatment complexities. Routine health screenings can catch abnormalities before they manifest as major health issues.
Recommended Screenings for Different Age Groups
Health screenings vary based on age, gender, and risk factors. Here are general guidelines:
- Young Adults (18-30): Blood pressure, cholesterol, dental exams, vision tests, and for women, pelvic exams, and Pap smears.
- Adults (30-50): All the above, plus mammograms for women starting at 40, diabetes screenings, and colon cancer screenings starting at 45.
- Older Adults (50+): Bone density tests, prostate cancer screenings for men, lung cancer screenings especially for smokers, and continuing with the aforementioned tests.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight:
Obesity is more than just a matter of aesthetics; it’s a significant health concern. Excess body weight is a proven risk factor for a range of non-communicable diseases.
This includes heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Moreover, obesity places added strain on bones and joints, increasing the risk of osteoarthritis. It also affects breathing, leading to conditions like sleep apnea.
Finding the Balance: Approaches to Weight Loss
Embarking on a weight loss journey should prioritize health over rapid results:
- Dietary Adjustments: Emphasize whole foods, reduce calorie intake, and minimize processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods.
- Regular Exercise: Combine both aerobic activities (like walking or cycling) with strength training for optimal results.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking water supports metabolism and can help in reducing calorie intake.
- Professional Guidance: Consider seeking advice from dietitians, nutritionists, or fitness trainers to tailor a weight loss plan suited to your needs.
- Sleep Well
Sleep isn’t merely a “downtime” for the body; it’s when essential restorative functions take place. During sleep, the body repairs cells, flushes out toxins, consolidates memories, and regulates mood.
Consistently getting quality sleep ensures optimal physical and mental health, reducing the risk of conditions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even impaired immunity.
Tips for Better Sleep Hygiene
- Consistency: Try to sleep and wake up at the same time daily, even on weekends.
- Create a Sleep Sanctuary: Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or white noise machines if needed.
- Limit Screen Time: The blue light emitted by phones, tablets, and computers can disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. Aim to disconnect at least an hour before bed.
- Watch Your Diet: Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
- Relaxation Techniques: Practices like reading, meditation, or taking a warm bath can signal the body that it’s time to wind down.
- Limit Exposure to Environmental Risks
While often less obvious than lifestyle risks, environmental factors play a significant role in our health. Air pollution, for instance, doesn’t just exacerbate respiratory issues but has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.
Toxins found in everyday items, from pesticides in foods to chemicals in cleaning products, can disrupt hormonal balance, impair organ function, and increase the risk of NCDs.
Ways to Reduce Exposure at Home and Outside
- Indoor Air Quality
- Chemical Awareness
- Safe Eating
- Limit Outdoor Activities During Peak Pollution
- Use Protective Gear
- Stay Informed and Educated:
In the dynamic field of health and medicine, what we know evolves rapidly. Being aware of the latest research can help individuals make informed choices about their health, from understanding new risk factors to adopting recommended preventive measures. Center for Disease Control can be a good resource to remain updated.
Conclusion on the 10 ways to prevent non communicable diseases
The journey through understanding the nuances of non-communicable diseases underscores their significance in today’s health landscape. While they remain a formidable health challenge globally, the solutions, as we’ve explored, often lie in daily choices.
Each factor we delved into, from diet and exercise to environmental awareness and continuous education, plays a crucial role in fortifying our defenses against NCDs.
Facing the threat of non-communicable diseases might feel daunting, but the battle is not insurmountable.
The power of prevention lies in the collective impact of small, daily decisions. Opting for a salad over fast food, choosing stairs over elevators, taking a moment to meditate, or simply turning off your electronic device an hour before sleep – these might seem minor, but their cumulative effect is monumental.