Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Unhealthy Modern Lifestyle

A new medical study has revealed that 90% of all cancer cases are lifestyle-related, rather than genetic/DNA-related. Many other diseases plaguing modern folks, such as heart disease and type II diabetes, also largely have lifestyle-related causes. This means that they are, in most cases, preventable. It is our unhealthy modern, worldly-lifestyles that are driving these diseases to epidemic levels. And it is the rise of these diseases that have pushed medical and insurance costs sharply upwards in recent decades. If we are to get healthy, as individuals and as a society, we need to abandon the unhealthy modern lifestyle triggers for these diseases.

Unhealthy Modern Lifestyle:

1) Tobacco use in all its forms. Like it or not, various medical studies have proved that smoking and other uses of tobacco are directly responsible for about 22% of all cancer cases (not just lung cancer). Smoking and tobacco use are also responsible for a wide-range of other health problems.

A word on second-hand smoke: Being occasionally exposed to second-hand smoke is unlikely to cause cancer. However, prolonged and consistent exposure to second-hand smoke, such as living with a smoker for years, can lead to cancer and other health problems. This is especially true for small children whose lungs and immune systems are still developing. Parents who smoke ARE putting their children's health and lives at risk. If that truth offends you, that's your problem (and, unfortunately, your child's problem).

2) Substance abuse. This unhealthy lifestyle category includes both the use of illegal drugs and the abuse of legal drugs and alcohol. And, yes, this includes the use of marijuana.

An occasional alcoholic drink probably won't cause health problems for most people, and in fact a daily glass of red wine may have health benefits. However, heavy alcohol consumption - certainly to the point of getting drunk - can cause serious problems over time, including liver disease and even several forms of cancer.

Marijuana currently enjoys a favorable status in modern society, and legalization is happening everywhere. Both sides of the marijuana debate are guilty of exaggeration in promoting their viewpoint. It is neither as dangerous as its opponents claim, nor as safe as its supporters claim. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Occasionally smoking a single joint of marijuana is unlikely to cause health problems, but prolonged and consistent marijuana use can, including various types of lung problems and even the lose of IQ points.

3) Lack of physical activity. Modern society is very sedentary. Most folks get little physical activity on a regular basis. According to a 2012 study, "conclusive evidence exists that physical inactivity is one important cause of most chronic diseases. In addition, physical activity primarily prevents, or delays, chronic diseases, implying that chronic disease need not be an inevitable outcome during life."

Lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to obesity, lack of fitness, strength, and endurance, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, stroke, joint problems, balance problems, colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, several gallbladder diseases, and even erectile dysfunction, among other problems.

4) Unhealthy diets. The modern diet is extremely unhealthy - overloaded with sugars, salt, unhealthy grains, and various substances such as preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals we were never meant to eat as food. Also, Americans typically eat huge serving sizes, consuming way to many calories for our sedentary lifestyles, leading to the current obesity epidemic. Fast foods, junk foods, and other heavily processed foods are very unhealthy.

5) Sunburns. Exposure to sunlight is not dangerous. In fact, we need it for vitamin D production. Don't be afraid of being out in the sun or of getting a healthy tan. However, even too much of a good thing can be bad. Repeated sun burns, to the point that it is painful and causes skin peeling, can lead to various problems such as skin cancer and other diseases.

6) Lack of quality sleep. I know plenty of people who claim to get by on six hours of sleep a night or less. You might "get by" with less, but the research is overwhelming - adequate sleep is very important to good health. Lack of adequate sleep not only makes you tired, but according to research, impairs your concentration, memory, fine motor skills, and negatively impacts your mood. Not only that, but a long-term lack of adequate sleep compromises your immune system and plays a role in developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, and even several forms of cancer. Getting enough sleep on a consistent basis really is a must for your health.

6) Environmental toxins. The modern world is filled with any number of dangerous chemicals and other environmental toxins that we are exposed to on a daily baisis in concentrations much greater than normally found in nature.  These include air and water pollution, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, PCBs, VOCs, phthalates, chlorine, and even heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead.

Beneficial Lifestyle Changes

1) Stop smoking and using tobacco in any form.
2) Stop using and/or abusing illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, and marijuana.
3) Greatly increase your physical activity.
4) Lean to eat healthy, and in moderation.
5) Don't avoid sunlight, but do avoid getting sunburns.
6) Make a habit of getting at least seven hours of sleep every night ("catching up" on the weekends doesn't count).
7) Find ways to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins.

Websites and Other Resources

Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan (on the Mayo Clinic website)

Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Pyramid (on Dr. Andrew Weil's website)

Traditional Asian Diet (on the Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website)

The Paleo Manifesto (fascinating book by John Durant)

8 Weeks to Optimum Health (book by Dr. Andrew Weil)

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Action Plans (book)

Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal (book) 

American Cancer Society (website) 

Quitting Smoking (on the American Cancer Society website) 

Eating for Good Health: Anti-Cancer Foods (article on this website)

Improve your health, fitness & vitality (article on this website)


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