Sometimes, it's all too easy to develop complex treatment solutions and medical technologies without really seeing the bigger picture. Chronic disease is a serious problem in the United States, and medical professionals are working tirelessly to address this issue every day. While there are plenty of ideas for new methods to fight chronic disease, some researchers believe that a relatively simple solution might have the greatest impact. There is a growing feeling in the medical community that the potential negative effects of chronic disease can be substantially mitigated by relatively simple lifestyle changes.
The first thing we need to examine is the effect of unhealthy habits and risky behaviors. These can significantly increase the impact of chronic disease, and individuals can seriously improve their long-term health by avoiding them altogether:
1. Tobacco: According to the CDC, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease. Although smoking is less popular now than it has been in past decades, this is still a major concern. In addition, second-hand smoke can cause a range of illnesses for innocent individuals, such as children. Among many other issues, smoking can cause strokes, lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory infections, middle ear disease, and asthma.
2. Nutrient Deficiencies: Our diet plays a massive role in our overall health, and this is well-documented across scientific literature. Poor nutrition may be responsible for serious health issues, including chronic disease. People are especially at risk for chronic disease if they consume sugary drinks every day, and more than half of Americans engage in this behavior. In addition, only around 10% of all adults and teens eat enough fruits and vegetables.
3. Not Enough Exercise: Individuals who are serious about disease prevention should make it a priority to get enough exercise. Again, the numbers are disappointing in America. Only around a quarter of adults get enough exercise according to guidelines set forth by the CDC. That number is even lower among teens. Regular exercise can help patients avoid heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and a range of other issues.
The fact that people with chronic diseases are 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 highlights the need for a solution. Many researchers including Dr. Saray Stancic, have proposed something called "lifestyle medicine." Stancic is the author of What's Missing for Medicine a book that argues for a number of lifestyle changes for Americans. These include eating a plant-based diet and five other lifestyle choices that she believes are extremely beneficial.
Dr. Stancic recovered from MS using these guidelines years ago. She argues that 80% of chronic diseases are preventable, and she is not the only one making waves in the relatively new field of "lifestyle medicine." Many hospitals now serve plant-based burgers to heart bypass patients and several medical schools are now teaching "culinary medicine" as a legitimate field of study. One things for certain: things have to change in America and new initiatives like these might be the only thing that helps us move in a new healthier direction.