Lifestyle Diseases are quickly becoming a global threat. On a global scale, over 14 million people between the ages of 30 and 70 die every year from NCDs and 85% of these deaths are in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). This has not only exposed these countries to economic burden but also rendered them social injustices impairing the sustainability of their development.
In Kenya, the epidemiological transition marked by a decline in morbidity and mortality due to communicable conditions, and an increase in the burden of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, stress, and Chronic Respiratory Diseases are quite alarming. Cardiovascular Diseases and Cancer have been identified as the leading causes of deaths in Kenya. In 2012, these diseases contributed to 8.6% and 7% of deaths, respectively. According to this finding, diabetes caused a lower proportion of deaths at 1.5% but it is becoming increasingly important because it’s prevalence is fast growing in sub-Saharan Africa.
In today’s dynamic world, improved technology coupled with conventional medicines has been used as the most effective remedy for increasing an individual’s lifespan. However, they have failed to address key issues in preventing, managing, or even reversing some of the already existing conditions. We are decreasing our lifespan and putting an undue burden on healthcare costs.
Numerous evidence for successful intervention through Lifestyle Medicine has been put forth. But little has been done to adapt it. Therapeutic Lifestyle Modification focuses on four approaches in preventing, improving, managing, and even reversing many of these Chronic Diseases: Nutrition, Sleep, Physical Activity, and Stress Management. They are simple and easy to adapt, even though they need plenty of dedication and discipline. When personalized, Lifestyle Medicine can be a necessary technique for sustainable management and prevention of chronic illnesses. Lifestyle Diseases are acquired through modifiable behaviors. Meaning, we can freely escape or delay their onset by strictly adapting the Lifestyle Medicine Approach and consistently adhering to it to form part and parcel of our lives.
The Lifestyle Medicine Approaches that can be adapted to reduce the risks of Lifestyle Diseases include:
- Healthy Eating
Healthy diets are key to good nutrition and necessary for a prolonged healthy life. Eating nutrient-dense foods especially cereal products in their whole-grain, high-fiber form, and balancing energy intake with the necessary physical activity to maintain a healthy weight is essential at all stages of life. Generous consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes with adequate folic acid intake, eating less of high-calorie foods, especially foods high in saturated or Trans-fats and sugar and limiting the intake of sodium and cured meats can be a great measure to optimizing one’s health. This consumption pattern is not only healthier but more favorable to the environment and sustainable development.
- Maintaining a Regular Physical Activity
To maintain a healthy weight, the critical role of both diet and physical activity should be fully recognized. Regular physical activity is a key element in weight control and prevention of obesity which is the lead cause of chronic diseases. In addition to its key role in maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity reduces the risk of Cardiovascular Diseases, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, Colon and Breast Cancer, Osteoporotic Fractures, Osteoarthritis, Depression, and Erectile dysfunction. Important health benefits have even been associated with walking for half an hour per day, but greater reductions in risk are seen with longer durations of physical activity and more intense activity.
- Getting Adequate Sleep.
Sleep provides the foundation for all of your daily habits and decisions. Adequate and quality sleep is essential in maintaining optimal health and wellbeing. When it comes to attaining perfect health, sleep is as important as healthy eating and regular exercise. Getting enough sleep regularly will lead to improved work output and better concentration. Adequate sleep may also lower the risks of gaining weight and acquiring Cardiovascular Diseases. Further, good quality sleep leads to better calories regulation, more social and emotional intelligence, prevention of depression, lower inflammation levels and boosts the immune system. Sleep hours vary from person to person and depending on an individual’s age. The average sleep hours for an adult in the age category of 18-60 years is 7 plus hours. Sleep is important because it renovates the body to be ready for another day.
- Building a Better Mental Health
Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Maintaining good mental health is the best approach to getting the most of one’s life. Eating healthily, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and avoiding harmful levels of alcohol and other drugs among others can help you keep your mental health on track, manage symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve your overall wellbeing.
Great Health outcomes will be realized when these four pillars are applied zealously in holistic Management of Lifestyle Diseases.