Four Key Factors Affecting Health

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It is widely accepted that majority of diseases in the current times are due to unhealthy dieting habits and sedentary (inactive) life-style. This leaflet focuses on promoting healthy diet and describes how active life-style can greatly improve our health. Broadly, there are four major factors, which have immediate and long-term impact on our health. Those factors are:

  • Our genes – whoever and however we are – is because of our genes. Many diseases have genetic association, it is therefore considered as a pre-disposing factor in many ailments. The effects of genetic factors on health are difficult to prevent or reduce in many conditions (e.g. hemophilia, thalassemia). Medical evidence also supports the increased risk of certain diseases in individuals who carry particular genetic markers (e.g. presence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increases the chance of breast cancer in women).

However, there are various other diseases, which have genetic associations, life-style modifications and adopting healthy dieting habits can significantly reduce or delay the complications of the disease for many years e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney diseases and obesity etc.

  • The Environment, we live in or exposed to - that includes a combination of natural and artificial (man-made) elements: air quality, water quality, climate, civic amenities, exposure to chemicals etc. For most people, it is largely difficult to change their environment.

Poor air quality causes asthma and many pulmonary diseases Poor quality of drinking water causes many infections and other illnesses Inappropriate civic amenities (poor sanitation, garbage buildup, unsafe roads) expose population to unhygienic conditions, mental stress, accidents and many avoidable health hazards. Risk of exposure to chemicals in air (radon) and occupational exposure of certain chemicals are hard to avoid

Generally, limited actions can be undertaken at individual/ community level to protect the hazardous effects of environment.

  • The diet we consume - choice is in our hands. Most people can adopt healthy dieting habits, although it is not always that simple.

Eating habits largely depend on awareness level, likes & dislikes, affordability and availability. However, without increasing the budget, most people can greatly improve their dieting habits through simple interventions or modifications such as:

- Reduce salt in-take (Minimize risk of High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease) - Reduce sugar and processed carbohydrate in-take (reduces diabetes and obesity risk) - Cut down fats especially animal fat consumption (lowers risk of high cholesterol and heart disease) - Eat more fresh vegetables, lentils, whole grains and beans

Consuming healthy diet is important to prevent sickness or manage existing illness.

  • Life-style – we can improve it – choice is in our hands

Inactive life-style is one the main contributory factor to declining standards of health. Gradually, in the last couple of decades, the life-style of communities and overall population especially in cities in Pakistan and across the globe, has become sedentary and inactive. This is due to multiple factors that may include: availability of motorized vehicles, limited sporting facilities, towns and cities are not designed to promote physical activities, availability of domestic workers and internet-based options etc. Comparing the life-style of our elders, generally most people in cities do not walk that often. Incorporating physical activities in daily routines can help improve health, for instance, use stairs instead of elevator wherever possible, do gardening (in pots or lawn), carryout minor home repairs, play with kids at home and walking while talking on phone. Most people cannot do full workout – they just need to utilize any opportunity to walk, because it helps in slashing blood sugar, reducing risk of heart-related disease and strengthening bones & muscles.

Making appropriate changes in life-style, consuming healthy diet and avoiding risky behaviors (smoking, alcohol) is key to stay healthy, disease-free and have substantial cost-saving.

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