Growing up, current generations heard that the greatest health threats worldwide were things like starvation, epidemics, and drought. While these things continue to plague mankind, there is now a newer problem that has surpassed these old disasters. The number one threat to human life on the planet today is the crisis of chronic disease.
Just how bad has the crisis of chronic disease become?
The World Health Organization has declared chronic diseases the number one killer on the planet. Chronic disease is now the cause of over fifty percent of deaths worldwide. Furthermore, the death toll currently caused by chronic disease continues to increase steadily.
Facts about chronic disease from the World Health Organization:
- Chronic diseases are now the major cause of death and disability worldwide. Noncommunicable conditions, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, obesity, cancer and respiratory diseases, now account for 59% of the 57 million deaths annually and 46% of the global burden of disease.
- A relatively few risk factors – poor diet, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and alcohol – cause the majority of the chronic disease burden.
- A change in dietary habits, physical activity and tobacco control, have a major impact in reducing the rates of these chronic diseases, often in a relatively short time.
- Heart attacks and strokes kill about 12 million people every year; another 3.9 million die from hypertensive and other heart conditions.
- More than one billion adults worldwide are overweight; at least 300 million of them are clinically obese.
- About 75% of CVD can be attributed to the majority risks: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low fruit and vegetable intake, inactive lifestyle and tobacco.
- Sustained behavioural interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing population risk factors.
Chronic diseases include things like heart disease and strokes, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and dementia, and many others. These diseases are widely understood to be the result of our modern lifestyle choices. Over the past several decades, research has shown that these chronic illnesses are preventable in large part if we learn to make different choices. In other words, if we live differently.
Predictions for the future are that this chronic illness crisis, as bad as it is today, will get much worse. Cancer rates have been predicted to go up by 50% by the year 2020. One in three children born in the USA today will develop diabetes. And research continues to show our toxic modern lifestyle is the cause.
Sadly, many diseases we are suffering from today were largely preventable if we knew what to do differently ahead of time. The same applies to our health in the future.
If we act now, many of these chronic diseases are avoidable if we change how we live our lives.
What Are We Doing to Cause This? From the World Health Organization:
“A few, largely preventable, risk factors account for most of the world’s disease burden. Chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability worldwide, and increasingly affect people from developing as well as developed countries. This reflects a significant change in diet habits, physical activity levels, and tobacco use worldwide as a result of industrialization, urbanization, economic development and increasing food market globalization…
“Five of the top 10 selected global disease burden risk factors identified by World Health Report 2002: reducing risks, promoting healthy life – obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcohol and tobacco – independently and often in combination, are the major causes of these diseases.
“The scientific evidence is strong that a change in dietary habits and physical activity can powerfully influence several of these risk factors in populations.”
What is happening?
“People worldwide are consuming more foods that are energy-dense – high in sugar and/or saturated fats – or excessively salty.
“Nutrition transition and increasingly sedentary behaviour is occurring at a much faster pace in developing countries than was the case for developed. Chronic diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent in many of the poorest developing countries, creating a double burden on top of the infectious diseases that continue to afflict these countries.
“While an optimal diet is critical, daily moderate-intensity physical activity is well-established as an important determinant for good health, helping lower blood pressure, reduce body fat and improve glucose metabolism. Daily physical activity can also help reduce osteoporosis and falls among older people.”
While daily physical activity certainly helps reduce rates of numerous disease processes (almost all of them), we suggest that physical activity should not be viewed as a treatment for disease. Indeed, not even as a preventative measure for avoiding disease. Instead we view regular physical activity as a necessary essential element for physical well-being. View movement as a nutrient for your body just like those supplied by a quality whole foods or supplements.
What can be done? Here are important recommendations by the WHO:
“Established scientific evidence suggests there are major health benefits in eating more fruit and vegetables.”
This is echoed by thousands of important pieces of scientific research.
Further recommendations from the WHO include implementing “daily physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight (within the Body Mass Index (BMI) range of 18.5 to 24.9) and stopping smoking.”
This is particularly important: A multi-faceted approach is required.
“The causes of NCDs (non-communicable disease, ie chronic disease) are complex and the response needs to be multi-faceted and multi-institutional. The evidence is overwhelming that prevention is possible when sustained actions are directed both at individuals and families, as well as the broader social, economic and cultural determinants of NCDs.
“Dietary, physical activity and smoking cessation programmes should be integral to both the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Good health demands a “Life Course” approach to eating and physical activity that begins with pre-pregnancy, includes breastfeeding, and extends to old age.”
We agree with this wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, little of our resources here in the US are directed this way. In fact, the vast majority of our resources are directed towards treating the effects of chronic disease, rather than correcting the cause. Do your own part by sharing Bonfire Health with someone today.