Many chronic diseases or conditions can be traced back to lifestyle choices, specifically the choice of being sedentary or inactive. Physical activity has been linked to numerous health benefits that in turn, combat many different diseases or conditions.

This article will attempt to shed some light on these conditions that can be reversed or slowed down by physical activity or simple lifestyle changes.

For the general population, the common diseases or health problems that are observed due to inactivity are also part of ACSM’s (American College of Sports Science) risk stratification for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Abnormal readings in fat or lipid content, obesity, hypertension, trouble controlling blood glucose levels, age, family history and whether or not smoking is present are all risk factors for CVD, as well as other heart related conundrums.

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Control the controllables

Some of these obviously can’t be controlled like age or family history, but others such as obesity and smoking are very important lifestyle changes that can be utilized to control or aid in a complete cessation of your disease.

Obesity is a growing problem in the world today. For the general population, being overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 25 kg/m² and obesity is categorized as a BMI of greater than 30 kg/m². According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a study conducted in 2014 showed 1.9 billion adults ages 18 and older as overweight and of that population 600 million were obese.

Obesity is completely preventable and losing weight along with attaining a lower body fat percentage directly leads to lower cholesterol values, decreased hypertension, and decreased blood glucose values and therefore decreases your overall risk of CVD, myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke.

Diabetes is also linked with obesity, and has quickly grown to be one of the more prevalent diseases in the world today. The most common categories of diabetes are type 1 (T1DM) and type 2 (T2DM). T1DM is genetic, where the body’s immune system attacks the β (beta) cells of the pancreas which produce insulin. This causes the body to cease insulin production and therefore blood sugar levels rise causing hyperglycemia.

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Typically, T1DM can only be treated with medications, but there have been positive responses to exercise that have been observed. T2DM is sometimes referred to as adult onset and is characterized by the body not being able to use insulin that is being produced correctly. This is called insulin resistance and physical activity and exercise has been shown to be able to delay or even reverse the symptoms of this particular type of diabetes.

Typically, aerobic training such as running, biking or swimming is used to help diabetics lose weight and therefore decrease other risk factors that can cause fluctuating blood glucose levels. The main point of exercise for diabetics is that consistent exercise prescribed correctly has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and weight loss, which aids in achieving normal glucose levels.

Smoking is a lifestyle habit that can be changed and stopping is linked with significantly better health.

Along with many dental and oral problems, smoking has been deemed as a risk factor for CVD and stroke, hypertension, bone health, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and cancers found everywhere in your body including, but not limited to, lung, bladder, colon, stomach and esophagus.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking is said to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke by two to four times and lung cancer by almost 25 times. As smoking is associated with all of these health conditions and diseases, the complete cessation is very likely to at minimum improve symptoms and increase quality of life.

Within a year from successfully quitting, the chances of a heart attack in a patient drops sharply along with risk of stroke and certain cancers. Within 10 years, chance of lung cancer drops by half. Given the popular morbidity of cancers, quitting would dramatically decrease the amount of mortality worldwide.

In Part 2 Jon Kilian continues to look at how lifestyle choices impact on our health and wellbeing and illustrates particularly damaging but preventable issues.

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