The not-so new face of illnesses

One hundred years ago, the most common causes of death and disease – pneumonia, influenza, and tuberculosis – were contracted by infection.

Because of vaccines and antibiotics that have been developed through modern medicine, these and similar diseases, such as smallpox and polio, are typically no longer life-threatening.

Today the most common forms of death – cardiovascular disease and cancer – are lifestyle and age-related diseases.

In part we fall prey to cardiovascular disease, cancer and strokes because we are living longer.

Heredity (which we obviously can’t control) certainly plays a part in whether we develop these diseases.

There is little doubt, however, that how we live will contribute to the overall quality and quantity of our years. We can influence our health and reduce the likelihood for developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke and other potentially lethal diseases.

In terms of behaviours that contribute to ill health, the highest contributor to disease and death in the population is tobacco use followed by physical inactivity.

In these, Australian physical inactivity ranks first as the leading contributor to preventable illness and death among women, given their lower tobacco usage rates than men.

Consequently, physical inactivity is very important from the perspective of general health and well-being. We cannot control our genetic pre-disposition to certain diseases, but we can modify our behaviour to prevent, or delay the onset of many life, and lifestyle-threatening illnesses.

We are therefore, influence of our own health. By stopping smoking and starting a physically active lifestyle, we increase our chances of leading a longer, healthier life. Take the first step to a longer, healthier life, put down the paper and go for a 10-minute walk. Right now.

So isn’t it about time we took control of our lives and realise that these diseases are preventable. At least, in part they can be significantly reduced or slowed down.

Let’s all make an effort to move as much as we can, challenge our bodies physically and mentally so we can keep ourselves fit and strong for as long as possible.