Lifestyle diseases are believed to be rooted somewhat in an individual’s or society’s standard of living. These conditions typically occur in greater numbers in developed countries with long-living citizens, and may thus be divided into diseases of civilization or diseases of longevity. Diseases that rely more on societal influences include diabetes and obesity, while those that occur more frequently as an individual ages include cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Some conditions, like heart disease, can be influenced by both industrialized living and advanced age.
Since industrialized regions tend to have less healthy, higher-fat diets, food consumption drives many diseases of civilization. Obesity is one obvious example, and heavier individuals are likewise susceptible to a number of progressive health issues like diabetes and heart disease. The cholesterol-heavy diets of developed regions also lend to higher rates of heart disease and stroke. Some scientific research suggests diet may also play a role in the development of cancer. From the early 20th century to the 21st century, as living standards rose and diets degraded in numerous regions, heart disease and cancer became the leading causes of death in many of these regions.
Environmental differences in developed nations can also facilitate lifestyle diseases, particularly diseases of civilization. For example, the rise of industry yields a subsequent rise in pollution and harmful airborne substances. In turn, respiratory ailments like asthma increase as well. Additionally, an elevation in the overall pace of modern industrialized life creates greater levels of stress. Perhaps not coincidentally, psychological disturbances such as depression have risen in tandem with this cultural shift.
While technological and medical advancements have eradicated many infectious diseases and thus improved the average lifespan in many parts of the world, the aging of the populace has created a quandary. Older individuals are more prone to degenerative diseases that rob them of optimal physical and mental fitness — these are known as diseases of longevity. Everything from bones to the immune system weaken as aging continues, leaving senior citizens vulnerable to a surplus of conditions: broken bones, muscular atrophy, cancer, and liver and heart disease. Weakening pathways in the brain also create an environment for decreased intellectual awareness, as evidenced by Alzheimer’s Disease.
Lifestyle diseases are usually chronic and long-term in nature. They adversely impact the healthcare system and the mortality rates of a region. One positive is that because of their nature, many cases of lifestyle diseases are preventable. Changes in diet and environment can eliminate substantial risk factors in these conditions, although other factors like genetics can be influential as well. Increased education and awareness is perhaps the most important weapon in the fight against lifestyle diseases.