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Opinions of Friday, 20 January 2017

Columnist: Dr. Ajediran I. Bello

Rising trend of lifestyle diseases - why should we be concerned?

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Dr. Ajediran I. Bello

Civilisation encompasses broad life transformation ranging from technological advancement, social integration, lifestyle changes and the rest. It entails a dynamic phenomenon that has far-reaching influence on human life in all ramifications.

To state herein that civilisation has liberated third world countries from the era of obliviousness is indeed an understatement.

Gone are the days when pilgrimages were performed through trekking or at best horse riding which took years to accomplish, communication was only possible through emissaries, while health care was largely based on traditional modes with varied and indiscernible successes.

Today, the jet and computer ages have transformed the entire universe to a mere global village. As the saying goes, however, all good events have some elements of drawbacks.

The advent of advancements has also taken its toll on our lifestyle which seems to have ushered in most non-communicable diseases now branded as disease of lifestyle/civilisation.

Indeed, the conditions we live in and the accompanying lifestyles influence our health and quality of life.

The increased contribution of non-infectious or non-communicable diseases to the burden of disease is being recognised globally.

The emerging evidence from various researches estimates that these diseases account for 11-13 per cent of the burden. Additional drivers of these burdens are urbanisation and changes in lifestyle associated with economic development.

Africa has the world’s fastest rates of population growth owing to urbanisation and increase in life-expectancy with record of evolving disease profile.

Non-communicable diseases

There is a rising trend of non-communicable diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa that includes heart-related disease, diabetes and obesity. Majority of these diseases are related to lifestyles. For instance, the impact of obesity has become an increasingly important public health issue.

WHO, predicted that over 700 million people around the world be obese by the year 2015, a problem of epidemic proportions that plays a direct role in chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer.

The obesity rise not only threatens the health of individuals, it also weighs heavily on the healthcare system. Increasing evidence also suggests that social relationships may contribute in determining weight gain.

Stress associated with interpersonal relationship stressors contribute to weight gain via various mechanisms.

About 12.7 million cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths are estimated to have occurred in 2008, with 56 per cent of the cases and 64 per cent of the deaths in developing countries.

By 2030, numbers are projected to nearly double due to population growth and ageing. Diabetes mellitus, hypertension, respiratory diseases and obesity have become major public health problems of global significance.

The World Health Organisation has predicted that the number of patients with diabetes will double from 143 in 1997 to about 300 million in 2025, largely because of dietary and other lifestyle factors.

Risk factors

Most emerging lifestyle-related diseases are largely preventable. Epidemiological data suggest that a third of cancer deaths worldwide are potentially avoidable.

An estimated 19 per cent of cancers in men and 29 per cent in women in sub-Saharan Africa are attributable to various modifiable risk factors.

The leading risk factors that can be modified include: lifestyle changes e.g. physical inactivity; chronic infections occasioned by filthy environments, occupational hazards due to poor adherence to occupational health and safety standards; environmental exposure to chemicals or radiation in the air, water, soil or food, and in the workplace; socioeconomic factors leading to rural-urban migration; political/religious instability causing displacements in some countries.

Preventive measure

Unequivocal evidence exists that the combination of good health policy at the societal level and healthy behaviour at the individual and family level as regards smoking cessation, optimal nutrition, weight control and physical activity and exercise, optimal sleep, and stress management would largely prevent, manage and in most cases reverse these conditions.

With increasing changing culture as regards eating disorders among teenagers, physical activity provides an opportunity to tackle obesity issues while restricting emphasis placed on dieting.

Certain social-demographics can play a role in the amount of physical activity a child is able to undertake. Individual, interpersonal, and environmental factors are associated with physical activity among children and adolescents.

The development of physical activity strategies that span from childhood through to young adulthood is of critical importance.

In global terms, the healthcare focus is shifting from an illness model to a wellness model. Prevention of most lifestyle-related diseases transcends every individual and agency and it should permeate every aspect of society.

So, it behoves government at all levels to ensure adequate implementation of health policy while healthcare professionals intensify efforts on health education to curb the menace of these diseases.

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