Updated: Oct 3
In today's fast-paced, high stress world, it's becoming increasingly challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While many factors contribute to chronic diseases, the consumption of alcohol, drugs, smoking, and processed foods has been identified as significant culprits.
We have all lost family members, friends, and colleagues to either, cancers, heart disease, or diabetes. After watching numerous folks die from these diseases, the more concerned I became for my own health. As a result, I set out to research how and why folks got these diseases...
What I Learned:
It turns out that in every case these folks either drank, smoked, ate ultra-processed foods, or used drugs (including legally prescribed ones). Many combined some of these (I.e., drinking and smoking, or drinking and eating junk food, etc.).
Additionally, the older these folks became, the harder it was for their bodies to recover from the assaults. For example: while a few of these folks did not get cancers, heart disease, or diabetes until their 70's, many became ill in their 50's and 60's from them. Furthermore, those who lived the longest had a poor quality of life towards the end (imagine being bed ridden for months just waiting to die).
Here's how alcohol, drugs, smoking, and processed foods are related to the development of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes:
Alcohol - Not So Healthy:
Contrary to the belief that moderate alcohol consumption may have health benefits, emerging evidence suggests that no amount of alcohol is entirely safe when it comes to the risk of chronic diseases. Regular alcohol use can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and weakened heart muscles. Additionally, alcohol is a known carcinogen, increasing the risk of various cancers, including liver, breast, and esophageal cancer. Moreover, alcohol impairs glucose metabolism, contributing to diabetes.
Drugs - Including Certain Prescriptions:
Drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamines, opioids wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. They elevate heart rate, blood pressure, and can lead to irregular heart rhythms. The use of drugs like tobacco can constrict blood vessels, reducing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the heart, increasing the risk of heart diseases. Additionally, certain legally prescribed drugs can shorten your lifespan by wreaking havoc on your liver, heart, and kidneys. Furthermore, drug use weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to cancers.
Smoking - A Leading Cause of Preventable Deaths:
Smoking is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the heart and blood vessels, leading to the narrowing of arteries, reduced blood flow, and increased risk of blood clots. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for various other cancers, including throat, mouth, and pancreas. Additionally, it raises blood sugar levels, contributing to diabetes.
Processed Foods - The Silent Killers:
Eating ultra-processed foods regularly have been shown to be as addictive as smoking and just as dangerous. Processed foods, often high in refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and additives, are linked to several chronic diseases. They contribute to obesity, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. High sugar intake leads to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, and provides a favorable environment for cancer cells to thrive. Processed foods lack essential nutrients, weakening the immune system and increasing vulnerability to diseases.
Here are some lifestyle changes you can do to help prevent getting these diseases:
Abstinence from Alcohol: Given the emerging evidence, you should avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Healthy Diet: Opt for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, clean-lean proteins, and healthy fats. Minimize processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive salt intake.
Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your heart, and boost your immune system.
Quit Smoking and Avoid Drugs: Quitting smoking and avoiding drugs are critical steps in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.
Regular Health Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. Monitoring your health can help detect and manage potential issues early.
Stress Management: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, yoga, or hobbies to promote mental and physical well-being.
The links between alcohol, drugs, smoking, processed foods, and chronic diseases are undeniable. Prioritizing our health today can lead to a longer, healthier tomorrow. Remember, a healthy life is a precious gift – cherish it.
If you're a science geek like me and would like to read some studies about the relationships between these bad habits and their impacts on chronic diseases., check these out:
1. Alcohol and Health:
- Bagnardi, V., et al. (2015). Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose–response meta-analysis. International Journal of Cancer, 138(5), 1220-1231.
- Rehm, J., et al. (2017). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet, 392(10152), 1015-1035.
2. Drugs and Health:
- World Health Organization. (2018). The health and social effects of nonmedical cannabis use. Retrieved from [WHO Report](https://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/cannabis_report/en/).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Health effects of cigarette smoking. Retrieved from [NIDA](https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/health-effects-cigarette-smoking).
3. Smoking and Health:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Smoking and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from [Surgeon General's Report](https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2020-cessation-sgr-full-report.pdf).
- Doll, R., & Hill, A. B. (1954). The mortality of doctors in relation to their smoking habits: A preliminary report. British Medical Journal, 1(4877), 1451-1455.
4. Processed Foods and Health:
- Mozaffarian, D., et al. (2011). Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine, 364(25), 2392-2404.
- Malik, V. S., et al. (2010). Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477-2483.
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Until next time, Stay Healthy!
Sincerely, Lawrence Castanon,
Author, The Short Fight