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Saturday 20 July 2019
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Preventing lifestyle diseases

Healthy food clean eating selection: fruit, vegetable, seeds, superfood, cereal, leaf vegetable.
Healthy food clean eating selection: fruit, vegetable, seeds, superfood, cereal, leaf vegetable.


The University of the West Indies, School of Pharmacy

This year I’m going to lose weight; I’m going to start exercising more. This is the year that I’ll stop smoking. This is the year that I will get healthier. These remarks are usually the resolve of many as a new year begins, but, as time progresses, one usually reverts to old habits.

A healthy lifestyle

What is a healthy lifestyle? We always hear about it, always talk about getting healthier, but still we never seem to be quite in reach with it. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a healthy lifestyle as a way of living that lowers the risk of being seriously ill, or dying early. Having a healthy lifestyle is achieved by doing what is right for your body in effort of avoiding chronic diseases and long-term illnesses.

The leading causes of death in TT are largely lifestyle related. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are estimated to account for 81 per cent of all deaths. WHO, together with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), list cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke as the three top causes of death in the country.

What are these diseases?

• Cardiovascular disease – involve blocked/narrowed blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke.

• Type 2 diabetes – is a chronic metabolic disorder due to high blood sugar/ insulin resistance.

• Stroke – occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or ruptured, and blood flow to the brain is cut off. Starvation to the brain can result in permanent brain damage and possible death.

These lifestyle diseases have one major contributing factor –obesity. Body mass index (BMI) is an approximate measure and screening tool of whether someone is over or underweight. BMI is calculated by dividing the person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. A high BMI can be an indicator of obesity and excess body fat.

Such lifestyle behaviours include well-known risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, including smoking and other forms of tobacco abuse, eating high fat and low fibre diets, maintaining a sedentary lifestyle and engaging in alcohol and drug abuse. Obesity is also a contributing factor to lifestyle diseases and is the fastest growing health problem in today’s society.

Much of the chronic disease burden is preventable, and are caused by a variety of unhealthy lifestyle behaviours developed early in life. Such lifestyle behaviours include well-known risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

What are the pre-dispositions for these diseases?

A pre-disposition is a risk factor, characteristic/behaviour that influences a person’s chance of getting a disease.

Pre-dispositions are:

Alcohol abuse; decrease in co-ordination, masks the warning signs of fatigue and may result in subsequent injury, and subsequently result in cirrhosis (liver disease).

Tobacco use; smoking is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease.

Lack of exercise; spending little time being physically active can contribute to weight problems and other health risks.

Poor diet; (diet rich in fat, salt) is a poor nutritional practice.

Stress management; failing to manage your time can increase your stress level which

places negative effects on one’s health.

What are the factors that contribute to disease?

To achieve a healthy way of life, people must not solely focus on becoming physically fit, but they must also be free of risk factors for disease (such as hypertension, cigarette smoking, negative stress, faulty nutrition).

Certain lifestyle habits, environmental conditions, and healthcare limitations are risk factors that one can control. On the other hand, hereditary factors also affect a person’s risk of disease, and while issues stemming from this source can be beyond a person’s control, one must make an extra effort to upkeep a healthier lifestyle.

Choosing a healthy lifestyle

As the incidence of chronic diseases rise, it is obvious that prevention is and remains the best medicine. Only you, can control your lifestyle choices, you have control over the factors that influence your health. The earlier you begin making healthy lifestyle choices, the more you will decrease your risk of disease.

The aforementioned diseases can be avoided by establishing a self-disciplined regime that accounts for all facets of regular human needs and functioning. A lifestyle disease is most likely the result of a healthy human being making the wrong decision multiple times, which means that we are in a position where we can easily prevent these diseases, by simply making the right decisions.

Preventing most of these lifestyle diseases comes with the mentioning of the necessity for regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet, as well as having regular check-ups with your doctor to keep a record of your health status and being duly informed about disease states. A holistically healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the usual case of obesity, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and stroke.

This holistically healthy lifestyle can help to maintain a healthy body fat content; regulate and control blood sugar and to reduce excess fat, cholesterol and calcium intake (which is made up of plaque deposits along the arteries to cause atherosclerosis).

A high fat, low fibre diet increases the risk of colon cancer, however, this is not the only reason for the presence of the disease. Strokes can be a result of hypertension, smoking, diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, heavy drinking, improper diet and lack of exercise. Managing alcohol consumption and the elimination of smoking and drug use can reduce the probability of hypertension, strokes and certain cancers like lung, liver, throat and much more. Addiction is a chronic disease similar to other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Prevention of this usually incorporates a more socio-environmental and emotional approach. Living with a preventable disease is difficult. Upon reaching the diseased state, treatment is the next step. Treatment of the mentioned diseases is contingent towards the therapeutic approach, where there is the use of medicines; regulation of body parameters like blood sugar levels, blood pressure and body composition; regular check-ups with your doctor.

Keeping up to date with the processes of your body and having an idea of the possible areas of caution can be the key to knowing how your body normally operates, and what changes are needed to achieve a healthy life. Keeping a well-balanced socio-emotional environment can help to reduce stress levels and the dependence on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Preventative measures should still be applied during treatment as it can make life easier for the patient to help to extend life. Being healthy is not simply living for the now, it’s living for tomorrow, and that is the purpose of the healthy lifestyle, to extend the possibility of a healthy life.

One pot Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa

2 cups of dried quinoa

½ cup of blanched broccoli

4 cups of sodium-free chicken stock

1 small diced onion

1 cup cubed, seasoned chicken breast

1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley

3 cloves of grated garlic

½ teaspoon thyme leaves

½ cup of diced sweet pepper

Optional: ½ tablespoon of cayenne pepper

Season the cubed chicken breast with local green seasoning.

In a deep-dish frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken

breast and sear until the chicken has good colour and cooked ¾ the way.

Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, then add the garlic, sweet pepper, and the parsley.

Add the quinoa and the ½ tablespoon of cayenne powder and lightly toast in the same pan.

Deglaze with the chicken stock and simmer until halfway reduced.

Add back the chicken breast to the pan and cook until the quinoa is light and fluffy without any liquid in the pan.

Add black pepper and salt to taste.

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