Lifestyle diseases have become a global public health concern. Our lifestyles influence our health. These diseases, also known as non-communicable ailments, include cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
They are linked to certain ‘risk factors’ such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
But these can be reduced to a great extent by simply stopping our bad habits. For example, we should not eat simply because food is available! We may cut down on fats and eat more fruit. We should shun alcohol, tobacco and sedentary life.
Unfortunately, this is not happening because many of us associate good life with conspicuous consumption. Modernity and affluence is being equated with less physical activity.
Cancers, heart disease, diabetes and lung conditions already cost rich countries dear in terms of the health bills and productive life span of their citizens. But the scourge of what the World Health Organization calls the “non-communicable diseases” (NCDs) is rapidly spreading across all parts of the globe, fuelled by obesity as a result of bad diet and sedentary lifestyles, together with alcohol and smoking. These diseases were responsible for around 36m of the 57m global deaths in 2008, including about 9m before the age of 60 – and many are preventable.
While countries such as the UK have imposed smoking bans, taxed cigarettes and alcohol heavily and restricted junk food advertising to children, most developing countries have yet to address these issues – and the food and tobacco industries are accused of adopting marketing and production strategies there that would be unacceptable in Europe or in north America.
What is the daily recommended allowance of salt and cholesterol in the diet?
The American Heart Association recommends a restriction of dietary sodium to 3,000 milligrams (3 grams) per day and of dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day.
Generally, 1.5 teaspoons of salt (the composition of which is either sodium chloride or sodium iodide) a day is sufficient to obtain the recommended 3,000 milligrams of sodium. However, averagely we ingests two to four times that much. Too much salt in the diet causes extra water to be drawn into the blood vessels. This increases the pressure on the artery walls, causing high blood pressure.
Cholesterol, an essential element for bodily functions, is contained in foods having a high saturated-fat content, such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, fatty meats, poultry, shellfish, coconut oil, cocoa butter (found in chocolate), palm.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death, respectively.
Research shows a dose-dependent relationship between consuming too much salt and elevated blood pressure. When salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing for most people within a few days to weeks. Populations who consume diets low in salt do not experience the increase in blood pressure with age that is seen in most Western countries.
However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.
*You are 51 years of age or older.
*You have high blood pressure.
*You have diabetes.
*You have chronic kidney disease.
The 1,500 recommendation applies to majority of both young and adults. Nearly everyone benefits from reduced sodium consumption.
Experts now opine that diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, hypertension and even cancers can be prevented to some extent with a proper control over nutrition. The importance of nutritional medicine lies in taking stock of what we eat, how we eat and how much we eat.
Food is plenty now but it is not consumed in the right manner. It has been pointed out that tomatoes should become part of daily food, since lycopene, a nutrient found in tomatoes, helps in preventing cancers. However, the availability of tomatoes does not ensure that it is taken by individuals everyday as part of the diet.