Non-communicable diseases and diet are related in a certain way. The biggest challenge for us in 21st century is NCDs. They are rising at an alarming rate and are rising very fast. There are many factors contributing to them. Though the most significant ones are diet and physical activity. These are the two most important factors anchoring these diseases. We all know that times are changing and so are we. We are moving from traditional lifestyle to modern one. The traditional Thalis are being replaced by “Fast foods”. Hence that is the root cause of the problem. Non -communicable diseases and diet are linked in a way that change in diet affects the disease appearance.
Not only have our dietary habits changed, but the overall routine has been changed drastically. Non-communicable diseases and diet are very much related. How we eat, when we eat, what we eat affects how healthy we are. In this article, we are going to look through non-communicable diseases and diet along with other things. This will include the definitions, other factors and how you can correct/ prevent them.
What are Non-communicable diseases?
You all must have heard this term nowadays. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are those which are not spread by any agent. We must note that though causes of these may be known to an extent, but they cannot be cured. We can either prevent their occurrence or slow their progression. These are chronic diseases of long duration, and generally slow progression and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviors factors. These are also called as Chronic diseases because you know they are usually long term diseases.
These diseases are called NCDs because they cannot be spread from one to another by mere contact. Though their actually causes and how they transfer is not very clear yet. We all must try to prevent these before they occur as 100% cure is never guaranteed if diagnosed with these.
Types of Non-communicable diseases
You may note that there are four major types of NCDs. They are:
1) Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)– We all know that CVDs are the diseases mainly concerned with the heart. Heart attacks, stroke etc
2) Cancers– All types of cancers like beast cancer, colon cancer, any other organ cancer etc
3) Chronic respiratory diseases: Asthma, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease etc
4) Diabetes- both Type-I and Type-II diabetes mellitus.
These are the major four types of NCDs. Under them are various diseases that can be listed.
Prevalence and incidence
We have learnt about the four major NCDs in the above section. Note that these are all mainly responsible for the total NCD mortality and morbidity contributing to about 82% of all NCD deaths (World Health Organization – WHO, 2014). Each year, 15 million people die from a NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 85% of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (WHO).
In India, NCDs contribute to about 5.87 million (60%) of all deaths in India. The majority of NCD deaths occur in low and middle-income countries such as India because we are undergoing major health and nutrition transition. The reasons could be changing economy, increasing urbanization and changing lifestyles.
Risk factors and causes
We all are witness to changing times. With this, a lot of things are changing including the way we live, eat and be. Therefore, risk of these diseases are increasing day by day, without us realizing it yet. The risk factors can be divided into two main categories:
We will now look at these two categories and what all are included in them, one by one.
1) Non-modifiable risk factors
This will include all the factors in which you do not have any control. They occur and you cannot modify them. Let us now see what all factors are included in them.
– Age: With increasing age, the risk of NCDs increase. This may be due to decrease in physical activity level and change in dietary patterns that comes with age. It may also be due to various biological changes that occur in the body with age. For eg. change in hormone levels, digestive power etc.
– Genetic predisposition: If you have a family history of any of these disease, then chances are there that you may get it. You may have a well planned lifestyle and everything correct but due to your genes, you may be at more risk than anyone with no family history. Any small mistake can lead to occurrence of any of these conditions.
– Gender: Some of these disease are gender biased. For example, due to the presence of android obesity in men they are more disposed to CVDs. This is because android obesity is one of the independent risk factors of CVDs.
2) Modifiable risk factors
– Overweight/ obesity: With the kind of habits we have, obesity/ overweight problems are increasing. Increase in weight about 10% beyond you ideal body weight is overweight. Obesity refers to about 20% increase in body weight beyond your ideal body weight. This may not hamper your life right now, but as you grow up it will throw you up into NCDs. This is majorly the result of faulty eating habits.
It can lead to conditions such as pre-diabetes, increased blood pressure, dyslipidemia etc.
-Sedentary lifestyle: We all are surrounded by gadgets and machines which makes our work very easy. We are in a habit of switching on a switch for any work and that is it. Desk jobs and faulty eating habits, timings add more burden to it. Basically we are all having bad routines to follow, inappropriate sleep pattern, faulty dietary habits and physical inactivity leading to NCDs.
– Stress: We all live in a world full of competition and we are into the race too. This can lead to stress which leads to physiological and mental changes in the body leading towards NCDs.
How can it be corrected
Many of these diseases are lifestyle based. We all can make sure to prevent it by making our lifestyle healthy. In the following section, we will see some of the changes required.
Most of us today have a very busy schedule and often tend to miss our on healthy lifestyle habits. We tend to give all sorts of excuses such as lack of time, knowledge etc. But in reality what is lacking is our will power. If we do not correct ourselves in the correct age, we will face problems in later stages of our life.
Parts of lifestyle changes
1) Diet: The most affected part of our lifestyle is our diets. Due to modernization and easy access, we are slowly moving towards processed foods. In good old days, we used to cook everything at home be it our snacks or main course. Now, everything is available at market and are easier to cook. But have you ever thought, at what cost are you buying these stuff? At the cost of your own HEALTH. There are many easy recipes also that can be made quickly at home. DO look for them and make them. We will talk in detail about it in further section.
2) Physical activity: Increase in work hours at office is the leading cause of physical inactivity. Most of the professions today are desk job based. No one is actually running around and working. Therefore, sedentary activity is exponentially increasing. Still, we must make sure to take out one hour from our schedule and do some sort of physical activity. For more, please read https://buzzofthehour.com/importance-of-exercise-during-quarantine-lockdown/
You all must note that any change t occur requires changes in our behavior. Without our own mind’s consent, it will be very difficult for us to bring about any change in our life. But we must also note that changing is not an easy process. It requires a lot of commitment and will power.
# Steps of behavior change
There are six stages of behavior change. We will look at them one by one with example.
- Pre-contemplation: You think that you are fit and fine and do not need any change. You often tend to ignore the signs of illness and think no change is needed. (Why do I need to change? No need! )
- Contemplation: You will start noticing that your that your behavior may be problematic. You will need a thoughtful and practical changing the behavior. (Oh! I think I need to change.)
- Preparation (Determination) -You will be ready to take steps towards change. For example, you will visit your doctor and dietitian for checkup.
- Action – You will modify your behavior. For example, you will start following a diet plan and start exercising.
- Maintenance – In this stage, you will have sustained behavior change for a while (defined as more than 6 months) and intend to maintain the behavior change going forward.
- Relapse – In this stage, You may feel monotonous and feel like giving up. But you must not have desire to return to their unhealthy behaviors and sure you will not relapse. For example, now diet plans and exercises regime should become a part of your lifestyle permanently and you must never fail to follow them.
Diet is the most important part of our lives. We all know about balanced diets but how many of us know how to apply that knowledge in our day to day life? I am sure, very few of us. We all understand the following points first.
1) Home-based food is the best: Cook as much as possible at home and eat. The food will both be healthy and safe. At home, we can ensure that the use of HFSS i.e., High Fat Salt and Sugar is restricted which is not possible when we eat from outside.
2) Balanced diet: Include lots of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, pulses, nuts in your diet. It will not only provide satiety to your body but will also ensure your body’s nutritional needs are met. This diet includes no magical foods. This is just a way of eating your available foods correctly.
3) Cooking methods: Use healthy cooking methods such as steaming, saute, dry roasting than frying, tandoori roasting etc because they use less amount of oil and preserves the nutrition in food items. These methods will make yo feel healthy from within. Eg. Steamed Idlis will provide satiety, good protein and minimum oil will be used hence will not lead to weight gain.
Relationship between diet and non-communicable diseases
Diet has a major role to play in the occurrence/ prevention of such diseases. Our dietary intake decides how healthy we stay. For example, if we keep eating more of processed, junk food we will gain weight. Not only this, it will lead to conditions like insulin resistance, dyslipidemia etc. Due to increase in weight and these problems, excess fat will start to accumulate in our body including important organs hampering their function. This in turn will lead to problems like atherosclerosis leading to increased blood pressure and ultimately non-communicable diseases.
On the other hand, healthy diet will keep us in correct weight range leading us towards better life. Our diet will ensure that our lipid levels, blood pressure and sugar levels are in check.
DIET —-> Healthy/ Unhealthy body weight and other parameters —-> Prevention/ occurrence of non-communicable diseases
Diet for the prevention of non- communicable diseases
If we better our diets, half of the problem in our lifestyle will be solved. We need to eat mindfully and nutritionally well balanced food in order to stay super healthy and live a long life.
Nutrients and their benefits in prevention:
1) Complex carbohydrates: They take time to convert into glucose in our body, hence keeps you full for sometime. It will not lead to weight gain if eaten in proper portion size.
2) Pulses and legumes: They tend to add bulk to the food without increasing glucose levels in the body. They also provide necessary protein and energy to the body.
3) Fat: MUFA and PUFA tends to lower the serum cholesterol levels and hence reduce the risk of NCDs.
4) Fibre: They add bulk to the food without adding much calories to it. They aso tend to make you feel satisfied and hence can prevent over eating. They help in the digestion of food also and can prevent from conditions such as increased cholesterol levels, gastro-intestinal problems etc.
For prevention of NCDs, keep in mind the following points.
- Eat a variety of whole grain cereals: oats, dalia, buckwheat, mileets such as Ragi, Bajra.
- Include good sources of protein in your diet: Dals, legumes, Paneer, soyabean chunks, Milk and milk products, poultry products.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals. They also provide a good amount of fibre. Include a variety of vegetables and fruits in your daily diet and you will start noticing change yourself.
- Use of good fats: Use oils and fats rich in MUFA and PUFA in order to keep your lipid levels on check. You must also include nuts and oil seeds such as almonds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds etc in your daily routine.
Diet plays a major role in the prevention of NCDs. By simply switching yourself to healthy food choices and cooking habits, you can easily prevent yourself from contacting any of the NCDs. Even if you are genetically pre-disposed, good habits can help you at the least, delay the onset of these diseases. So, stay healthy. Make good choices and eat healthy food.
1) Non-Communicable diseases, WHO, 2018.
2) Nethan, Sinha & Mehrotra 2005, ‘Non Communicable Disease Risk Factors and their Trends in India’, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 18.