Adventures in Eldercare September 2018
We have all heard the term chronic disease or chronic illness but what does this term mean and why does it seem to be so common in our population? A few examples of chronic illnesses are Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, Asthma and Crohn’s disease along with many other health ailments. Generally, an illness is considered chronic if it lasts for more than three months but many of these ailments I just listed last much longer, often for the rest of the persons life.
There are many theories for the rise in chronic illness in our society. The most common and well accepted theory is that we are all simply living so much longer that these types of illness have time to show up and then we can live with the condition for many years. A good example is Prostate Cancer. Prostate Cancer is a very slow progressing cancer that starts to appear in men usually in their late 60’s or early 70’s. Just a short couple of generations ago men only lived on average until the age of 72 (today it is closer to 82!), so this very slow growing cancer was often never detected, or the man died from other causes before any health issues (symptoms) could arise. This type of logic also applies to arthritis. Arthritis is a wear and tear disease affecting the joints of the body. Just like an old car, things start to wear out and the older you get the more joints are going to be affected.
So the question again becomes, is there an increase in chronic diseases or are we all just living longer? The truth, like all truth is some where in between these two points. Yes, we are living longer for so many reasons, better overall nutrition, better hygiene, medical interventions, less smoking and less dangerous working conditions. These are all positive points and our society can be very proud of the strides that have been made in our life expectancy.
There is however trouble on the horizon and it’s a plate and fork issue. Our diet has become increasingly sugar laden and the obesity epidemic that is gripping the western world is the reason that for the very first time since the cave man, the life expectancy of the next generation will be shorter. With all the scientific advances, with everything we know about health we are drowning ourselves in extra calories and causing chronic health conditions that could be easily avoided. Type 2 Diabetes is at all time high levels and obesity is the reason. Get educated about sugar and especially hidden sugars in drinks and processed foods. Stop eating fast foods, they are the worst for hidden sugars. Just avoiding sugar will be a tremendous individual step to better health and then you can get moving with regular exercise and meditative practices like hiking or forest walking.
Chronic diseases will always be part of the landscape but only if we tackle our dietary problems will society enjoy ageing with as few chronic illnesses as possible.
Dr. Bruce Veltri is the founder and CEO of Victoria Eldercare, a Norfolk County based home care agency. Call 519-429-2644 or visit our website at victoriaeldercare.com for more information.