The rise of chronic diseases

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are responsible for over 60% of deaths worldwide.

The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease. In fact, the WHO estimates that 80% of all cases of heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes, and 40% of cancers, are preventable.

How to beat chronic diseases

Here are four lifestyle changes, recommended by the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa (PSSA), that you can make today:

1. Move more

You’ve heard it before because it’s true: Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your health.

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Not only does physical activity build strong muscles and bones, improve heart health, relieve stress and help you manage your weight, it also boosts your energy levels and the feel-good hormone serotonin. So get walking, running, cycling, dancing or swimming (all great forms of cardio exercise) and try to include some strength training in your routine.

2. Stop smoking

Smoking increases your risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, so the best time to ditch your pack-a-day habit is right now.

Not sure where to start? You can go cold turkey but that’s not your only option – you can also try behavioural therapy or a range of replacements like nicotine patches and gums. Some of these are available only in pharmacies and others are only available on prescription, so chat to your pharmacist about the options available to you.

3. Stop drinking (or drink less)

Regular heavy drinking can increase your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. If you drink, it’s definitely advisable to enjoy alcohol in moderation – a glass of wine with dinner or the odd G&T over the weekend.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate alcohol consumption constitutes up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. And no, you can’t stockpile your daily ‘allowance’ to go big on the weekend!

4. Eat a healthy, plant-based diet

Feed your body the food it needs and deserves. That means eating a nutrient-rich diet that contains a balanced variety of veggies, fruit, whole grains and legumes (and some good-quality animal protein if you’re not vegetarian. Make sure you drink enough water, limit your sugar intake and opt for whole grains over more processed flours. Finally, ditch the fast foods and high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar or syrup treats – they’re not worth your health.

What can you do if you already have a chronic disease?

These four lifestyle changes can make it easier for you to manage your chronic disease. It’s never too late to start eating properly or exercising at a level appropriate to your age and health.

Sources: Cdc.gov and Who.int

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.