What do heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and stroke have in common?

Have you ever wondered aloud what you’re likely to die from one day? Most of us below 50 rarely like to consider what might one day lead to our demise. In fact, until life whacks us a punch in the form of ill health, we mainly just live in a way that quenches our appetite, makes us lick our lips in ravenous delight or just feeds our current need for sustenance. Unfortunately, however, adhering to the traditional Western diet has not done anyone any good, as showcased by the top 5 killers in the Western world.

So what do heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and stroke have in common? Well, they’re all in the top 5. In the UK, that top 5 looks like this:

  1. Ischaemic heart attack
  2. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  3. Malignancies caused by cancer
  4. Cerebrovascular diseases (or stroke)
  5. Chronic respiratory diseases (such as COPD) -***https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/monthlymortalityanalysisenglandandwales/June2021#leading-causes-of-death

Other than being in the top 5, these diseases have something else important in common: they are all caused by a mixture of inflammation and oxidative stress caused by years and years of poor diet and lifestyle: all factors that are within our control and for the most part preventable.

As a Nutritional Therapist, I spend a lot of time telling people that although sacrificing some foods that they may like (such as processed carbs, over-indulgent sweets and soda and energy drinks) may not be fun, it could end up saving their life one day. I get A LOT of questions of why this sacrifice is necessary, particularly from clients who are not overweight. I hear A LOT of “but isn’t everything ok in moderation?”.

The answer is a confusing one: well yes… and no. While some things in moderation are ok (like animal products), other things even in moderation are just bad for you (like sweetened beverages such as soda and energy drinks and highly processed foods, especially sugared foods). So if you insist on eating them every once in a while, just treat them as the catalyst towards ill health that they are. If you keep that in mind and choose to eat them anyway, then at least you approach them differently and with caution.

The real problem is that the food industry doesn’t really care about our health at all except in the way that it helps them make more money. So if they can sell something as a “healthier alternative” without getting caught in a lie, they will. We can’t blame them either because the only thing a corporation is supposed to care about is taking care of its’ shareholders and making money to progress its’ business. So if what’s required is adding a couple of key ingredients to make the product they sell more tasty so that it sells better, why not? Think “healthier” cereals and anything made by Heinz (which just tastes better than the leading organic, sugar free alternative).

However, although the please of eating more palpable foods is clear, it is also highly fleeting and creates in our body a kind of addictive reaction where we begin to crave those same manufactured flavours (good for the corporations selling those foods, but not very good for our health). AGEs (advanced glycated end products: such as anything made to be more tasty with added sugars) have been linked both with premature ageing (including wrinkles, loss of collagen…) and ageing-related diseases (such as the top 5 killers). Also linked with the top 5 killers are smoking, lack of exercise and calorie excess (especially when linked with nutritional deficiency). Still think your diet and lifestyle has nothing to do with how you age or even when you’ll die and what you’ll die from?

If you’re still not convinced, consider that there are 5 places in the world with the most people living past 100 in a healthy way (no or almost no meds or diseases). The diet in these places, known as the Blue Zones, is considerably different from the typical Western diet. Their lifestyle is very different too, with minimised stress and both exercise and calorie restriction being a normal part of every day.

I certainly don’t expect to change the world in a day, but my mission in what I do is to bring the Blue Zones home. That’s why I’m soon to launch a program helping people to slow down ageing in just 12 weeks of changes. Stay tuned. And if you want an early preview or to book a free 20 minute call with me, click here: https://healthyageing.as.me/schedule.php