Lifestyle and health

Your health is not only influenced by your genetic background but it is mainly defined by your lifestyle choices. The development of a condition is usually the result of unhealthy lifestyle, poor eating habits and lack of recreational activities.

Lifestyle factors related to health

The way we live, our habits and behaviours, affects our mental and physical health. When we are faced with everyday challenges (career challenges, relationship troubles or the loss of the loved ones) good health provides us with the physical and emotional resilience we need to cope with difficult times, regain our balance and live life fully.

Several lifestyle factors play important role in your healthy lifestyle. Issues that impact on health include:

  • smoking, 
  • diet, 
  • nutrition and alcohol, 
  • physical exercise, 
  • sexual behavior and 
  • problems resulting from drug taking. 

Maintaining a normal body weight - preventing obesity

WHO defines obesity and overweight as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:

  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients; and
  • a decrease in physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.

What are common health consequences of overweight and obesity?

  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2008 globally;
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis - a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon).

What can you do to prevent overweight?

Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Good nutrition and physical activity are key factors in prevention. Firstly, limit energy intake from total fats, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, limit the intake of sugar and engage in regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes per day).1

Diet and good nutrition

A healthy diet is one that helps maintain or improve your health. Responsible eating is important for lowering many health risks, including obesity, heart disease and cancer. Experts advice to follow these recommendation for having good physical and mental health2

  • Achieve an energy balance and a healthy weight
  • Limit energy intake from total fats and shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids
  • Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts
  • Limit the intake of simple sugar -- A 2003 report recommends less than 10% simple sugars
  • Limit salt / sodium consumption from all sources and ensure that salt is iodized

Other recommendations include:

  • Sufficient essential amino acids to provide cellular replenishment and transport proteins. All essential amino acids are present only in animals. Many plants such as quinoa, soy, and hemp also provide almost all the essential acids but are always lacking in one or more essential amino acid. Those who omit meat products from their diets may still easily obtain all the essential amino acid in their diets by consuming adequate amounts of plant products and grain products, which combine to provide complete proteins to the diet. Fruits such as avocado and pumpkin seeds also have almost all of the essential amino acids.
  • Essential micronutrients such as vitamins and certain minerals.
  • Avoiding directly poisonous (e.g. heavy metals) and carcinogenic (e.g. benzene) substances;
  • Avoiding foods contaminated by human pathogens (e.g. E. coli, tapeworm eggs).

Physical activity

Many studies show connection between regular physical activity and reduced rates of coronary heart disease, colon cancer, anxiety, and depression. For example,  the most persuasive proof concerns coronary heart disease. People who are regularly active have about half the risk of those who are sedentary.

The recommended dose of exercise is 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity like brisk walking,gardening, cycling, or swimming-on most, preferably all days of the week. In addition, scientists say that people who are already that active can achieve greater benefits by increasing either the duration or intensity of activity.3

Smoking and health

Smoking is a major cause of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), although it can, in addition, be a cause of, or contribute to, many other cancers and conditions, such as asthma or high blood pressure. Research indicates that smoking can reduce life expectancy by seven to eight years.4


[1] - source: WHO
[2] - source: WHO
[3] - source
[4] - source: A health profile for Leysdown-on-Sea , Collin Thompson 2010

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