Chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health, etc. are on the increase.
60% of Americans suffer from a chronic disease and 40% have multiple chronic diseases. And this isn’t limited to adults. Our children are also experiencing chronic diseases. For the first time we are seeing a trend of shorter lifespans: children will on average live shorter lives than their parents.
In the US 14% are diabetic and 38% are pre-diabetic. 1 in 5 kids and 1 in 3 adults are obese (70% are overweight). 1 in 3 women will develop cancer. And 1 in 2 men will.
Did you know that if you suffer from chronic disease that 80% of the diseases can be reversed? 91% of type 2 diabetes are preventable. 90% of heart attacks are preventable. 80% of strokes are preventable.
What causes chronic disease?
It was thought to be genetic. If our parents suffered from a chronic disease then we were destined to follow suit and there is nothing we can do about it. Not so! Just because our parents have high cholesterol or high blood pressure doesn’t mean it is genetic and that is what is in store for us. This exciting area of genetic study is called epigenetics.
We now know that our genes can get turned on (activated) and off (deactivated) and are expressed to a greater or lesser degree depending on lifestyle factors. Our diet and lifestyle choices are 90% accountable for our lifespan, and only 10% is genetic. This is empowering and motivating. Our genes don’t have to be our destiny. We can do something about it by making healthy lifestyle choices. (When you see family members all suffering from the same chronic disease, it’s usually because they have similar lifestyles behaviors that are activating / turning on the genes causing those diseases.)
Healthy behaviors that positively affect gene expression include:
- Whole food diets (in the US on average 60% of our calories come from processed foods)
- Sleep quality and quantity (one third of US get only 6 hours or less of sleep a night)
- Exercise (on average in the US a person sits for 60% of the day)
- Stress management
- Cultivating connection
- Making time to play
- Being outside
One study showed that by adopting 5 healthy habits (moderate exercise for 30 min a day, following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, no smoking and avoiding excessive drinking) the average lifespan can be extended by 13 years. That’s significant.
According to CDC only 6% of Americans engage in the top 5 healthy behaviors of getting enough sleep, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, no smoking, and no excessive drinking.
The primary drivers of modern day chronic disease are all lifestyle behaviors. If you, or if you know someone, who are ready to make changes but feel stuck and overwhelmed consider working with a health coach. Health coaches are trained to facilitate lasting positive behavior change.