Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in Ontario. In 2007, chronic diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes were responsible for 79% of all deaths in the province. These largely preventable diseases diminish our quality of life, economy and communities.
Many chronic diseases are caused by key risk behaviours (tobacco use, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol). By making healthier choices, you can reduce your likelihood of getting a chronic disease and improve your quality of life.
Here are some of the many topics for consideration when preventing chronic diseases:
Healthy eating involves the consumption of foods from a variety of food groups and intake of water, while limiting processed or refined foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat with the overall goal of maintaining or promoting health and preventing disease.
Your diet is a modifiable risk factor for prevention of many chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and many others. Majority of Canadians do not meet healthy eating recommendations. There are many factors that challenge their ability to make healthy choices such as social, economic, and other environments. Rather than conforming to the environment around you, set new behaviours for yourself that will benefit your well-being in the long run.
Tip: There is evidence that the Mediterranean diet can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. This diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, fish, olive oil and nuts.
Physical activity is a key component of a person's physical, mental and overall well-being. Insufficient physical activity is linked with increased rates of a number of chronic and preventable diseases.
Sedentary behavior is postures or activities requiring little to no energy such as prolonged sitting, watching TV, and extended time spent on a computer. Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers (e.g. colon, and lung cancer). If Sedentary behaviour is part of your everyday routine, find times throughout the day to balance your physical activity. Set aside time for outdoor walks, working out, yoga etc. A small change can make the biggest difference, rather than driving every day to an office job, try walking or parking farther from your destination. Every step counts!
Tip: Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week.
Sleep plays an important role when it comes to our overall well-being. Insufficient or disrupted sleep can have both immediate and long-term consequences on our bodies. Both short and long sleep duration have been associated with health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and poor general health.
Tip: Aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night.
The use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and other substances are key public health concerns. Substance-related health risks include cancer, cognitive impairment, mental illness, heart disease and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol in particular is associated with a variety of chronic diseases. Tobacco use impacts nearly every organ of the body, contributing to the development of chronic diseases. Tobacco includes smoking and vaping or cigarettes and heated tobacco; smoking pipes and cigars. Limiting your smoking or alcohol intake (or never starting) can help reduce these health risks.
These were some of the many healthy habits that you can take to prevent chronic diseases. With there being 80% of chronic diseases driven by lifestyle factors, use this information to try to make healthy lifestyle habits permanent.