There’s a new killer out there who is responsible for most of the deaths on planet Earth. Everyone knows what it is, and everyone could fix it almost completely if they wanted to, but it’s getting worse.
That killer is a preventable chronic disease, driven by obesity, sedentary lifestyles, alcohol consumption, and poor mental health.
Multiple studies have found up to 72% of global deaths are now attributable to preventable chronic disease.
So just by living more healthily, we could stop 72% of the world’s deaths every year. They are highly preventable deaths.
Preventable deaths through chronic illness are the real pandemic out there, but we put virtually none of our efforts on healthcare budgets into these preventable deaths, especially when compared to things like the modern pandemics which actually claim far fewer lives.
The Things That Are Killing Us Have Shifted
So what we have is a problem in the modern world where the old ways of death have changed. You could see and understand diseases in times gone by.
But now, some of the things that kill us are actually seen as normal. Let’s look at obesity.
Obesity is becoming so common and something to be fought over as a social right in the developed world, that it’s now seen as “normal” to a percentage of the population. It’s fine to be fat.
That has led to a situation where unhealthy people are seen as healthy. That normalizes obesity, which means alongside poor socio-economic class, advertising, and other factors, that children are more likely to be obese.
It’s also about poor exercise. The Internet is killing us all. We don’t go out to work in the same way we did, physical labor is becoming less frequent. Some people’s steps per day are measured in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands.
Plus, modern life, drugs, alcohol, deprivation, abuse, all of these things lead to mental health problems which can also help to drive other factors in chronic disease but can also in some people drive it on its own.
Basically, we can’t see what is killing us, and a lot of what is killing us, up to 72% of his every year, is normalized to some degree as well.
The counterbalance to that, increased focus on exercise as a social activity, is not working for many people.
Even amongst the perceived super healthy, the gym rats who are in there every day, using the bodybuilding supplements, taking the right vitamins and minerals, with the good diet, are surprisingly often not as healthy as they seem.
Because these people are focusing on sculpting their bodies, they are not focusing on cardiovascular activity. A lot of people are known as “skinny fat”, precisely because they have poor cardiovascular health even if they are actually looking incredibly ripped and toned.
The Link Between Chronic Disease, Diet, And Exercise
Part of the problem is that the modern generation of children is taught from a very early age not to exercise as a priority. The Internet draws them inside to sit for hours on end. The parents give up and do the same thing.
Schools have less of a focus on physical activity now, and also you have the problem of space for those physical activities with increasing numbers of children in the schools.
So this rise in chronic diseases that are preventable is being seeded in the youth of the modern generation.
In the United States, the percentage of children who were obese in the 1960s was 5%. In the year 2000 that was 15%. By 2016 that had risen to 19%. In adults, it’s even worse, with nearly half of all adult Americans now overweight.
All of this heartache could be offset, and the seed was sown for a good future, simply by focusing on diet and exercise at an early age. But how many children, or their parents, have ever been educated thoroughly incorrectly exercising and having a good diet?
Chronic Disease Trends
Chronic disease trends are obvious to anyone who cares to look. Even in children, there has been a massive rise in type II diabetes, once a very rare illness.
Other serious illnesses linked to poor diet such as bowel cancer, are also skyrocketing in prevalence, especially in the developed world.
Cardiovascular disease, strokes, type II diabetes, colon cancer, stomach cancer, alongside many other serious progressive illnesses linked to poor diet and exercise levels, are on the march in a way they never have been before.
So the trends of chronic disease in our societies are clear. This is also backed up by data from the less developed world as well. Even in places like Africa and Asia where diets have been far less laden with fat and processed foods, and exercise levels have been higher, as this is changed due to increased levels of income, the same chronic disease trends are being seen.
The Socio-Economic Impact Of Chronic Disease
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the socio-economic impact of chronic disease is massive and will continue to increase.
In the year 2013, the healthcare costs globally for just strokes, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer, were estimated very conservatively at $54 billion.
Alongside this, at least $21 billion is lost every year through to lower productivity levels due to decreased physical ability and mental clarity.
Because of the long-term effects of chronic disease, this also means that healthcare costs in middle age and onwards are becoming more strained. Older people are being kept alive, but they are unhealthy, and it costs a lot of money.
Alongside that, more people are dropping out of the economy completely because physically or mentally, they are degenerating to the point where they cannot work.
Simple Measures Every One Of Us Can Take To Lower Chronic Disease Death Rates
The real tragedy here is that all of this is preventative and easily dealt with. But the laziness of modern society and the greed for easy food that is poor quality, is driving an increase in preventable chronic disease that is killing the majority of us every year.
Simple measures from childhood like exercise and education about poor diet could lower death rates by 50% or more annually in just a few years. Academic performance could be increased, physical productivity levels could be increased, mental health levels could be increased, simply by increasing diet and exercise.
There is a good trend emerging where more and more young people are going to the gym. They are getting better bodies, higher levels of fitness, and backing it up with a good diet (even if this is obtained through things like bodybuilding and sporting supplements rather than naturally), so the trend is positive.
However, it’s still minor in comparison to the overall population, and the prevalence of diabetes and other illnesses continues to rise.
The bottom line is that we need to exercise more and eat more healthily. We need to look after our mental health, and we need to look to the future by educating our children.