Lifestyle Diseases: An Emerging Epidemic Which Needs Urgent Attention

Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization) are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer. Such diseases do not spread from one person to another through touch, air, food, water or sexual contacts. These diseases may develop in a person due to faulty eating and living habits. Lifestyle diseases can be prevented by small but persistent changes in lifestyle. Learn How to prevent Lifestyle disorders by Dr. Sanjiv Haribhakti.

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What is a lifestyle?
A lifestyle is the pattern of living that we follow – how we work,Lifestyle Diseases: An Emerging Epidemic Which Needs Urgent Attention Articles what and when we eat, how and when we sleep, how much physical activity we do and whether we smoke or consume alcohol.

What is a disease?
A disease is a pathological condition that affects an organism, and is often associated with specific symptoms and signs. Long standing or chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity may not have symptoms or signs, but are known to cause serious complications if untreated in the long term.

What are Lifestyle diseases?
Diseases are of several types ie genetic, cancers etc, but the most common types of diseases are:
1. Communicable or Infectious diseases: develop due to spread of infections
2. Noncommunicable or Lifestyle diseases: Some diseases do not spread from one person to another through touch, air, food, water or sexual contacts. These diseases may develop in a person due to faulty eating and living habits. These diseases are called life style diseases.
Lifestyle diseases (also sometimes called diseases of longevity or diseases of civilization) are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as countries become more industrialized and people live longer.
Lifestyle or non-communicable diseases(NCD) are chronic (long term) in nature and cause dysfunction in the body and impair the quality of life. They may also lead to death. These diseases usually develop relatively over long periods. In the beginning there may not be any symptoms but after the disease sets in there may be a long period of impaired health. This leads to reduction in productivity and development of the country. As these are chronic conditions they are a financial burden for lifetime. Therefore, there is an increasing concern these days about lifestyle diseases that can be easily prevented but not cured.
Lifestyle disease potentially can be prevented by changes in diet, environment, and lifestyle.

Which are the common diseases occurring due to disturbed lifestyle?
Some of the most common lifestyle diseases include:
Atherosclerosis
Obesity
Type 2 diabetes
GERD & Hiatus Hernia
Hypertension
Dyspepsia(Indigestion), Constipation
Heart disease
Some types of cancers
Metabolic syndrome
Fatty Liver, NASH, Liver cirrhosis
Chronic renal failure
Asthma
Arthritis
Chronic obstructive lung disease
Osteoporosis
Stroke
Depression
Alzheimer’s disease

What are the factors responsible for Lifestyle diseases?
Diet and lifestyle are major factors thought to influence susceptibility to many diseases. Drug abuse, tobacco smoking, and alcohol drinking, as well as a lack of exercise may also increase the risk of developing certain diseases, especially later in life.
You must have observed that
i) More and more young people are seen smoking and drinking despite knowing the fact that these are harmful to health.
ii) Our nutritious and balanced meals are giving way to fast food and junk food, fresh fruits and vegetables are being rejected in favour of processed and packed food and soft drinks are replacing milk.
iii) We prefer to use a motorbike or car instead of walking even for short distances.
iv) More and more machines are being developed each day to reduce physical labour associated with our work.
All the above practices have led to our becoming overweight and obese. Obesity is excess body-weight than normal or ideal weight for our height. Obesity is the main underlying causes for other lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.

The lifestyle factors associated with these diseases can be of two types
1. Modifiable (those that can be changed) like food habits, physical activity level, addiction (smoking, tobacco and alcohol) and stress.
2. Non-modifiable (those that cannot be changed) like age and heredity.

Are Lifestyle diseases on the rise in India?
The health of youth is getting affected by three factors: People are getting busier with their jobs, technology is leading to changes in sleep and lifestyle patterns, and with more disposable income health has taken a back seat as they give attention to other things. Social prosperity comes with inherent health risks. The nature of diseases too changes – emanating from depravity to excess of nutrition. In the last 25-30 years, our society has evolved and hence it is obvious that ongoing risks will also emerge.
Lifestyle diseases are on a tremendous rise in India, especially in the young productive age group. I personally see at least 4-5 young patients daily with lifestyle disease. This has inspired me to write about this problem.

Do lifestyle diseases occur only in the rich?