Urbanization, the Modern Lifestyle, and Chronic Disease

What’s the Problem?

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, bone loss, and degenerative neu[1]rologic and ocular diseases are increasing worldwide as the world urbanizes. These chronic conditions account for 70 percent of all deaths in the United States and 60 percent of all deaths worldwide.1 In the Unites States, 75 percent of the healthcare budget is used to treat chronic diseases.2 These diseases result in enormous health[1]care costs, loss of work productivity, and human suffering. These chronic conditions can be significantly reduced, their progression slowed, and some virtually eliminated by lifestyle changes involv[1]ing diet, increased physical activity, and positive mental condition[1]ing. Pharmaceutical approaches can only treat symptoms but do not correct the underlying causes of these conditions. In addition, adverse drugs reactions (adrs) are among the top-ten leading causes of death in the United States.

Why so Much Chronic Disease?

As countries urbanize (move from an agrarian lifestyle to cit[1]ies) and as manufacturing, transportation, and marketing improve, more processed foods, which are high in caloric density and low in nutrient density, are consumed. This is why the world has seen an – 4 – staying healthy in the fast lane increase in “empty” calorie consumption, even in countries where food shortages exist. Also, individuals in urban areas are gener[1]ally less physically active and have a more chronically stressful lifestyle. Individual calorie availability has increased between four and five hundred calories per day in the United States over the last cen[1]tury.4 Between 1970 and 2008, calorie intake has increased from 2,168 to 2,673 calories per day (a 505-calorie increase).5 It takes 3,500 calories to equal a pound. Therefore, we have been consuming almost a pound extra in calories per week over the last forty years. This is why the United States has an epidemic of overweight issues and associated diseases. The major reasons for this calorie increase in the United States come from five major dietary changes and patterns over the last century (see illustrations at end of chapter 1):

  1. A continued increase in total meat consumption, with red meat consumption decreasing and poultry consumption in- creasing.6
  2. A dramatic increase in added fats and oils to foodstuffs.7
  3. A continued, steady increase in calorie sweeteners, more so from corn sweeteners now than the cane and beet sugars of the past.8
  4. A dramatic increase in cheese consumption.9
  5. An increase in grains since the early 1970s, of which 85 percent are refined grains, with “sweet-fat” calories added. (Note: Though grain consumption is higher today than the 1970s, total grain consumption in the early 1900s was great[1]er than it is today, with four to five hundred fewer total calo[1]ries per day consumed.)10

The TRIAD Wellness Program

The solution to the modern urbanized lifestyle and ensuing chronic disease is the same for developed and developing coun[1]tries: practicing simple diet and lifestyle principles, which suc[1]cessful aging populations from around the world have practiced for hundreds of years as part of their normal way of living. While the culture and location of these aging populations is different, the essence of their basic lifestyles is very similar and is generally included in the 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health using the TRIAD Wellness Program.

Last word

Examples of healthy aging cultures support this approach to healthful living and aging. Individuals have used this approach in very busy lifestyles and have maintained a high level of wellness and function. The world is busy, aging, and urbanizing rapidly, so it is im[1]perative to implement simple principles and practices that everyone can employ to reduce ever-escalating healthcare costs, loss of work productivity and function, and human suffering that occur from chronic diseases. If we can pre[1]vent and reverse chronic disease as individuals and a world community, then we can focus on the pressing and complex world problems that need our attention now.

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