There is so much information and news about health, disease and various forms of treatment available.
Today I would like to share with you young readers about what we can do to prevent disease by making simple and easy lifestyle changes in our daily lives.
This column is about how risk factors lead to the much talked about ‘non communicable diseases’ or NCDs.
WHAT ARE NCDs?
Non communicable diseases (NCDs) are health conditions that are not caused by any infection. In other words, they are not communicable from person to person. NCDs are chronic in nature and if untreated they can lead to further health complications.
NCDs include cardiovascular diseases (of the heart and blood vessels), stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases (asthma, COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease due to pollution indoors and outside) and common mental health disorders (anxiety and depression).
Most importantly, these diseases can be prevented at an early age. For this, we need to know what leads to them and these are called risk factors.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR NCDs?
Risk factors are conditions that can increase a person’s chances of developing an NCD or worsening an NCD. Stress, use of alcohol, tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity are common risk factors that can contribute to NCDs.
Fortunately, they are preventable. Often, lack of information or awareness about risk factors is found to contribute to the early development of NCDs.
Let us look at how we can address some of them.
Use of alcohol and tobacco:
Recreational use of alcohol (social drinking) and use of tobacco (smoking and using smokeless tobacco like gutka) begin at an early age and cause health issues. Some begin managing emotions (highs and lows) and stress by constantly using these substances and become addicted to them. Saying a firm ‘no’ to these substances is important.
Bottling up stress is like a pressure cooker ready to burst. It can lead to mental health issues.
Letting steam off, managing stress (at work or home) in healthy ways like talking about your troubles to a close friend and staying calm, exercising, practising relaxation and meditation, looking at life with a sense of humour can prevent physical and psychological problems in the long run.
Use of processed foods, over use of sugar or salt (sodium) in the daily diet is risky and can lead to obesity or malnutrition and NCDs.
We often have unhealthy eating practices such as eating fast food or junk food all the time, skipping meals, eating hurriedly, and paying poor attention to nutritious food. Eating home cooked meals as much as possible, eating on time, daily intake of fruit and vegetables (locally grown and seasonal), and consulting a dietician for a balanced diet are some healthy eating habits you can start developing.
We spend a lot of time in school or college working hard. But we become couch potatoes at home (watching television, using gadgets) and avoid physical activity.
Fear of injury or finding exercise boring can add to it. Using the stairs instead of the lift, walking to nearby shops, 30 minutes of exercise (running/ gym/ yoga/ walking briskly in parks/ cycling) can become a part your of everyday life.
Remember, risk factors can be modified by changing our behaviour and adopting healthy practices in the early years of our lives. Let’s start now!