4 of the Most Common Preventable Chronic Health Conditions (and How to Guard Against Them)

4 of the Most Common Preventable Chronic Health Conditions (and How to Guard Against Them)

The terms “chronic health condition” or “chronic illness” refer to long-lasting conditions which may not have a cure and which can have a significant impact upon daily activities and quality of life. Chronic health conditions are a major concern worldwide, and are amongst the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. 

However, many of these conditions are preventable. Though there are no guarantees, living a healthy lifestyle, knowing what to look out for, and staying on top of regular preventative healthcare can all significantly decrease your risk of contracting one of these conditions. 

In this post, we will look at four of the most common preventable chronic health conditions and offer practical tips on how you can guard against them.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, responsible for around 16% of total deaths according to the World Health Organization. However, many of the biggest risk factors for heart disease are within our direct control. 

The primary contributing factors to heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Therefore, living a healthy lifestyle can help you to ward off heart disease. 

Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and low in saturated fats, trans fats, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, sodium, and added sugar. Aim to get around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as swimming, jogging, or brisk walking, each week and incorporate muscle strengthening exercises into your routine, too. 

If you smoke, seek support to quit. If you do not smoke but your loved ones do, try to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than two drinks per day if you are a man and one drink per day if you are a women. 

Finally, get regular check-ups to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glucose levels. Early detection can lead to better management of heart disease. These screenings are increasingly important as you age. 

Type 2 Diabetes

Just over 6% of the world’s population suffers from type 2 diabetes according to the National Institutes of Health. This condition is characterized by dangerously high blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance, and the most significant risk factors are inactivity, obesity, and an unhealthy diet. 

Eating a healthy diet and keeping active are your best strategies for preventing type 2 diabetes. In particular, aim to limit your consumption of refined and added sugars. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight. Even a moderate amount of weight loss can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes if you are overweight or obese. 

If you are at high risk for type 2 diabetes (for example, if you are overweight or have a family history of the condition), get your blood glucose levels checked regularly.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a chronic lung condition that is primarily caused by smoking. Symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, a cough, and excess mucus production. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two common conditions that can lead to COPD. 

Since COPD is most often caused by smoking, the most effective way to prevent it is to never smoke or to quit smoking if you do. Smoking is highly addictive and quitting can be a challenge, so seek support and use smoking cessation aids (such as nicotine patches or gum) if necessary.

You can also help to protect your lungs by avoiding exposure to pollutants, hazardous chemicals, and dust in your environment. Use protective equipment if you work in conditions that expose you to these elements. 

Early detection can help to manage the symptoms of COPD and slow its progression. A common test called a spirometry test is used to diagnose COPD in its early stages.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects almost half of all adults in the US according to the CDC’s Million Hearts organization. Of those affected, only around one in four have their condition under control.

Hypertension increases your risk for heart attacks, heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysms, stroke, and many more serious health complications. 

The biggest risk factors for hypertension include being overweight, consuming too much salt, and lack of exercise. Therefore, ensure that you eat a healthy diet and limit your sodium intake as well as getting at least 150 minutes of activity per week. Consuming too much alcohol and caffeine are additional risk factors, as is smoking. 

Stress can also play a role, so take steps to reduce your stress and engage in stress management techniques such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, talking through your worries, and doing relaxing activities that you enjoy.