Lifestyle diseases have become part of our collective consciousness. This has been especially true in the past two years when we continue to hear how people are more prone to complications associated with COVID-19. It seems like the unspoken goal of many Americans these days is to minimize lifestyle diseases—not only to avoid getting sick but to have a better quality of life. While not as simple as taking a daily pill, there is one easy step you can take to avoid such issues: change the way you eat.
Defining Lifestyle Diseases
You may think that lifestyle diseases are a Western issue, but that’s no longer the case. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 71% of global deaths are associated with lifestyle diseases, or what the WHO calls non-communicable diseases. Of these, 77% occur in low- and middle-income countries, making this far from an “American” or “Western” problem.
The WHO defines these non-communicable, or chronic, diseases as a result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors. In other words, lifestyle diseases.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ’s list of chronic diseases includes heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and tooth decay. These can lead to disability or death, not to mention the considerable cost of care and burden on the healthcare system.
We refer to these issues as lifestyle diseases because the risk factors are generally things within our control, including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical activity, obesity, sleep, and diet.
Minimize Lifestyle Diseases by Eating Plants
Several activities affect your proclivity for developing a chronic disease. And you can change all of them:
- If you smoke, stop.
- If you drink excessively, eliminate alcohol or cut back on your intake.
- Increase your physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get deep, consistent sleep.
- Eat a balanced diet.
Studies show that eating plants can go a long way to reducing your risk of being diagnosed with a chronic disease:
- Research from The Journal of the American Heart Association concludes that a plant-based diet can minimize lifestyle diseases by leading to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Research presented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), as reported in The Permanente Journal, shows that a plant-based diet can reduce the number of medications patients take to manage chronic conditions, as well as help to reduce body weight, risk of cancer, and risk of death from heart disease.
- The American College of Lifestyle Medicine offers several publications highlighting the benefits of a plant-based diet to minimize lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, reproductive cancers, and autoimmune diseases, in addition to leading to a longer life.
It is well known within the medical community that a plant-based diet is the best option to help minimize lifestyle diseases, and research continues to back it up.
Take Steps Toward a Plant-based Lifestyle
You don’t have to relegate yourself to living with chronic disease. Even if you are currently overweight or have been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or any other lifestyle-related ailment, there’s a good chance you can minimize the effects—and in some cases, reverse the diagnosis.
Dr. Michelle McMaken, the executive director of nutrition and lifestyle medicine for NYC Health + Hospitals, believes in the power of healing through healthy eating. She is involved with The Plantrician Project and NYC Health + Hospitals’ Plant-based Lifestyle Medicine Program and is a firm believer in plant-based nutrition. In an article on Helio, Dr. McMaken shared that the US’s top four causes of death can be directly related to diet choices. And nearly half of deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are due to a poor diet. By eating better, says Dr. McMaken, we can prevent 80% of lifestyle diseases. Plus, she believes we can reverse chronic diseases.
You can start your new path to minimizing lifestyle diseases by switching to a plant-based diet today. And The Vegan Taste can help you get there easily with delicious, ready-to-eat meals. See what Chef Jason has on this week’s menu.