By: Michelle Kaminski
Chronic diseases are a profound public health problem in the United States (U.S.). They are a major cause of death and include among other things heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2020), 6 out of 10 adults suffer from chronic disease in the U.S. Even though Americans are living longer than ever before and the development of chronic disease is preventable, they still prevail and pose a risk for longevity (American Public Health Association, 2020). The main reason chronic disease affects so many adults in the U.S and costs the country more than a trillion dollars in healthcare is that many Americans fail to take preventative measures against the development of chronic diseases. Some examples of these measures include minimizing tobacco use, eating a nutritious diet, and engaging in daily physical activity (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020).
While a major problem in the U.S, chronic disease affects middle and low-income countries on a global scale as well. In these countries, and specifically developing regions, tackling infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS has historically been of primary concern and chronic diseases have not received the same amount of focus. However, they should be receiving equal amounts of attention since chronic diseases affect people at a younger age and result in more complications in these countries when compared to the U.S.
In Nigeria, a low-income country, chronic disease is one of the leading causes of death; the most common chronic diseases affecting Nigeria’s citizens include heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These diseases prevent economic growth in Nigeria, and issues such as adult obesity are only getting worse as people’s diets are changing. As people are shifting to western lifestyles and diets in sub-Saharan Africa, obesity is now a medical problem in this region. We are now seeing a disease that used to only be prevalent in affluent countries be a major issue in low-income countries as well (Iloh et al, 2013). Chronic disease persists in middle and low-income countries since there are not enough communities and markets accessible to people in order for them to make healthy choices (World Health Organization, 2005).
Chronic disease is a major worldwide problem; however, it is a problem that can be prevented. We know chronic disease is present in the U.S and globally, but what can we do to prevent chronic disease? Here are some tips on how to follow these three guidelines recommended by the CDC (2020):
- Do Not Smoke:
Smoking combustible cigarettes and e-cigarettes containing tobacco can lead to cardiovascular disease (such as heart attacks), lung cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
- Eat Healthily:
There is no diet that we encourage following, but it is key to always eat a balanced meal containing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Eating an unhealthy diet consisting of high amounts of processed sugar and fat can also lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Regular Amounts of Physical Activity:
Even if one eats an extremely balanced diet and is happy with one’s body image, daily movement and exercise are essential for the prevention of chronic disease. Do not worry if the gym is not your thing; brisk walks around the neighborhood, biking, yoga, and even gardening all count. Try to aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
American Public Health Association. (2020). Chronic Disease. American Public Health Association. https://www.apha.org/topics-and-issues/chronic-disease
Iloh, G. U., Ikwudinma, A. O., & Obiegbu, N. P. (2013). Obesity and Its Cardio-metabolic Co-morbidities Among Adult Nigerians in a Primary Care Clinic of a Tertiary Hospital in South-Eastern, Nigeria. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 2(1), 20–26. https://doi.org/10.4103/2249-4863.109936
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020, September 24). Chronic Diseases in America. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020, September 15). How You Can Prevent Chronic Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/prevent/index.htm
World Health Organization. (2020). Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/chp/about/integrated_cd/en/
World Health Organization. (2005). Preventing Chronic Diseases a vital investment. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/en/