Chronic Diseases Are Preventable

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Archived story. Original version is here.

Chronic diseases impact the way we live our lives every day. Many people do not believe that chronic diseases — such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and many cancers — can be prevented. 

We know the major causes of these noncommunicable diseases; if we knock out risk factors, then we are much less likely to fall ill, so that, for example, 80% of all heart disease could be prevented. 

There are healthy lifestyle choices people can adopt to reduce the risk and severity of the onset of many chronic diseases. It is vital that these healthy measures begin when we are children. As the World Health Organization tells us, six in 10 adults have already contracted a chronic disease.

Healthy habits are key to preventing the onset of chronic diseases. A Harvard study found that following these five healthy practices may increase life expectancy by a decade or more. These healthy habits comprise:

  1. Eating a healthy diet
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Keeping a healthy body weight
  4. Not drinking too much alcohol
  5. Not smoking

As a child or young adult, you can make personal decisions to delay the onset of chronic diseases. Teenagers and young adults may view drinking and smoking as social and harmless activities; however, these choices may become harmful if used in excess over a long period of time. Overuse of alcohol and smoking can cause cancers, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and more. These behaviors can even bring about premature death. 

Another important factor to consider in reducing the risk of chronic disease is gaining sufficient knowledge of your family’s medical history and taking appropriate steps to be screened for familial diseases. Early detection may help in treating a condition or prompt lifestyle changes. 

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Treatment of chronic diseases not only impacts a person’s physical and emotional health but can be costly. Medical interventions can become a burden to patients fighting chronic illnesses; therefore, actively reducing the risk will impact expenses in the long run. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsays that 90% of the 3.3 trillion spent in annual healthcare expenditures in the U.S. are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. So investing earlier on healthy food and activities and visiting their primary care doctor annually may not only save people money in the long term but may lengthen their lives. 

Eighty percent of chronic disease deaths occur in low- and middle-income communities, striking those populations least able to prevent or treat disease. WiRED International offers a health learning module on understanding noncommunicable diseases. All WiRED’s materials promote disease prevention and healthy lifestyles.

Everyone, young and old alike, should practice healthy habits, learn more about their family histories and take the initiative to address any early warning signs of a chronic disease.