Malnourishment and diarrhoea have been replaced by diseases like high blood pressure, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption as the leading causes of death. How significant is this rise in the number of people with conditions that are often associated with economic prosperity?
Overall, people are expected to live 10 years longer than they did in the 1970s, but these extra years are now often spent dealing with illnesses. As professor Christopher Murray, who led the research, puts it: “There's been a progressive shift from early death to chronic disability.” (BBC News)
Although smoking and drinking aren’t conditions in themselves, addiction or over-indulgence of either costs the NHS millions of pounds every year. With smoking it’s not even a question of over-consumption, as other research suggets that even just a cigarette a day can increase a woman’s chances of developing life threatening cardiovascular complications.
Research has proven time and time again that many lifestyle conditions are related and can aggravate one and other; this is particularly true of diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and drinking. So now that we are living longer, it’s going to be essential that we learn to live healthier everyday.
Over the last ten years, healthcare in the western world has started focussing more and more on helping people improve the quality of their lives. However, it’s evidently becoming more difficult to implement these changes. Research has shown that our busy lifestyles, the wide availability of fast food, an increased reliance on technology and high stress levels can make living healthily very challenging.
This may be the time to start thinking more long term about our healthcare. It’s difficult to not be hedonistic in a day and age where everything is available where and when we want it, although we need to start finding ways to think about the possibility of a life where we may have to eventually stay active in the work force for longer or even have children much later.
Although treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol are available, patients are ultimately recommended to improve their lifestyle regardless of whether they are using a medication. It’s not always possible to reverse the effects if damage has already been done, which is why healthy choices should become a habit from an early age. This means maintaining a balanced diet and being active. Obviously this won’t mean that we’ll be able to ward off all diseases forever, but at least these measures can reduce the risk of some of the more avoidable ones.