50% of deaths for people aged less than 75 are potentially avoidable deaths.
(The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
Australians are dying in huge numbers by preventable diseases and the numbers are increasing each year. It is predicted that the average lifespan is in decline – in other words, our children will not live as long a life as their parents.
In 2015 nearly 30% of all deaths in Australia were from cardiovascular disease. It is the leading underlying cause of death in Australia.
A 2013 report from The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 80% of deaths from coronary artery disease are preventable. These deaths are attributed to lifestyle factors such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, high alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating and poor control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
It is estimated that 90 percent of lung cancer could be prevented through action and awareness. 90% – that’s huge! Lung cancer death is amongst the top 5 causes of death in Australia and is the leading cause of cancer deaths.
By 2020, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. Obviously not all of these people will die from the cancer, but I have a real problem with what the medical profession classes as “cured”. If someone with cancer survives for more than 5 years, they are classed as “cured”. If they then live another 1 month and get cancer, they are another statistic. This artificially inflates the “cure rate” of cancer. And there are a lot of people who have had cancer, been cancer free for 5 years, then developed a secondary cancer after the 5 year period.
Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia. In 2011 there were an estimated 298,000 people with dementia and it is expected to increase to 400,000 by 2020 and 900,000 by 2050. It is a truly horrible way to die – stripping the person of their very essence.
Almost 65% of Australians are overweight or obese and the figure is increasing. 65%! That is another incredibly alarming statistic.
What is causing this epidemic of preventable disease and death?
Society has totally lost its way when it comes to our health. We are eating processed food devoid of nutrition, high in calories and sugar, and eating food grown in depleted soil and sprayed with chemicals. We are leading a life that is far too sedentary and we have lost our balance between work and relaxation. We are continuously stressed and anxious and sleep deprived and for most of us, rather than try to change our lifestyle, we reach for the alcohol or medications in the hope that this will make us feel better. We ignore the warning signs that our bodies are giving us – digestive disturbances, insomnia, anxiety, stress, fatigue, headaches, overweight, high blood pressure, joint pain – the list goes on. These are all symptoms of something going wrong with our bodies and the longer we ignore these symptoms, these warning signs, the worse our state of health becomes.
Why is it that so many people only decide to change their life and look after their bodies AFTER they have suffered from a potentially life threatening condition – like a heart attack or cancer? And even then, why do so many of us just go back to our old habits, burying our head under the sand like an ostrich?
What can you do to give yourself the best chance to live a long and healthy life?
You need to go back to eating whole, nutrient dense food. The number one rule for eating should be “if it comes in a packet, it is not a whole food – so don’t eat it”. Processed foods are full of sugar, chemicals and trans fats and devoid of nutrition.
You need to eat organic whenever possible. There is a lot of conflicting advice as to whether organic food is more nutritious than non organic. It depends on what study you read. I believe that if it is grown properly, then organic food is more nutritious. The one thing that is a definite is that the organic grown food is higher in phytonutrients – these are the natural chemicals that fight the free radicals in our body, that are anti inflammatory, anti cancer, that boost our immune system and allow us to cope better with stress, both physical and emotional. Our bodies need these chemicals just as much as the nutrients and they are far higher in organically grown produce.
You need to get off our bum and exercise.
According to the World Health Organisation, “Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.”
You need to lower your alcohol consumption.
High alcohol consumption – Women who drink more than 7 standard drinks (equivalent to just 1 bottle of wine) per week are considered to be excessive drinkers. For men it is more than 14 standard drinks per week.
Excess alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, various forms of cancer – breast, mouth, liver, colon, throat. It can also lead to insomnia, dementia and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
You need to stop ignoring the warning signs your body is giving you
Reflux, bloating, erratic bowel motions, flatulence – all signs of digestive disturbances. Ignore these warning signs and you are compromising your ability to absorb nutrients. Without the proper nutrients, your body can’t possibly be expected to remain healthy.
Feeling stiff, sore joints, arthritis? These are signs that your body is inflamed and inflammation is at the cause of all major disease.
Stressed, anxious, depressed, suffering from insomnia? Stress impacts every single bodily system. You need to ensure that your stress and anxiety levels are as low as possible. For more information on the impact of stress on your body, read my 5 part series on stress.
You need to pay attention to all of the warning signs and be proactive.
You need to stop treating the symptoms of disease and start treating the causes
Modern medicine treats the symptoms of disease, Natural medicine treats the causes. Modern medicine is fixated on finding a single pill that will “cure” a particular disease (because then it can be patented and a lot of money can be made from it) but the body is extremely complex and people are all individuals. The causes of one particular disease with vary from one person to another, and unless we delve into the actual causes, it is just a bandaid approach.
Take high blood pressure for example: Modern medicine gives us a tablet to lower the blood pressure, rather than discovering what is causing it to rise in the first place and treat that. So the original causative factors (vitamin and mineral deficiencies or excesses, excess weight, high stress, thyroid dysfunction and many more) are still there, slowly destroying the body in other ways. For high cholesterol, people are given statin drugs to lower the cholesterol, never bothering to find out why it is high in the first place. My article on cholesterol explains the importance of cholesterol and why we should never lower it without first looking into why it is high.
Start to take control of your life – take control of what you put into your mouth, of reducing your stress levels, of exercising. Don’t ignore the warning signs of poor health – your body is trying to tell you something and you need to listen
By Andrea Southern, Naturopath, Nutritionist, Herbalist at Stafford and The Gap in Brisbane. For an appointment phone 0412 791 705