Effects of Lifestyle Factors on Non-communicable Diseases

Non-communicable diseases are diseases that cannot be transferred between individuals. Usually, they are either genetic or a result of lifestyle factors. Some examples of non-communicable diseases are:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases the chance of developing a disease. Risk factors are often either related to an individual’s lifestyle, substances in their body or their environment.

Certain risk factors are correlated with specific diseases, but increased exposure to a risk factor does not guarantee an individual will get the disease. This is because correlation does not always mean causation. However, some risk factors have been proven to directly cause specific diseases.

Liver disease

High alcohol intake can lead to liver disease. Fatty liver disease is a type of disease that is common in alcoholics. It can lead to liver cancer and impaired liver function.

Alcoholics often have vitamin deficiencies (particularly vitamin B6 and thiamine). The recommended weekly allowance for men and women is 14 units a week. Drinking less than this significantly reduces the risk of developing liver disease. It is also recommended to spread your alcohol consumption over 3 or more days if you have a high alcohol intake.

Lung disease

Smoking dramatically increases the risk of developing several lung diseases, including:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoke contains over 40 different chemicals and they all have different effects on the body. For example:

  • Tar can cause lung cancer
  • Nicotine can cause high blood pressure and heart failure

The UK government provides services to help smokers and encourage them to quit smoking.

Cancer

Exposure to carcinogens can increase the chances of cancer. For example:

  • Exposure to air pollution or smoking can increase lung cancer
  • Exposure to ionising radiation can cause uncontrolled cell division, leading to cancer

Lifestyle Changes

Changes to exercise and diet are important in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. Below are some lifestyle changes that can improve cardiovascular health.

  • Reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat can reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis – This is a serious condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances
  • Maintaining a healthy BMI can reduce strain on the heart
  • Regular exercise ensures a healthy weight
  • Reducing the amount of salt in the diet
  • Managing stress levels can prevent high blood pressure from developing

BMI

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health. BMI (Body Mass Index) uses the height and weight of a person to work out if their weight is healthy. The equation is:

The table below shows the BMI categories. So, individuals with a body mass over 30 are considered to be obese.

BMI
Underweight<18.5
Healthy weight18.5 to <25
Overweight25 to <30
Obese>30

There are many factors that can contribute to a person’s weight.

Obesity

Obesity is a term that describes a person with an excessive amount of body fat. It can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure because fat (lipid) deposits form inside blood vessels.

Obesity can also contribute to developing Type 2 diabetes, as the body cannot use insulin as effectively when there is a high proportion of body fat.

Government programs, such as the ‘sugar tax’, are aimed at reducing obesity across the country. Eating fewer processed foods, less sugar, saturated fat and high-calorie foods can help reduce the risk of becoming obese.

However, it is important to consider that genetics may also be a factor.

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