Editor's Viewpoint: Key to good health is being sensible
Published 30/10/2009 | 08:00
The way we lead our lives in modern society is coming under more and more scrutiny by health professionals faced with rising incidences of largely preventable conditions.
One health issue that can be greatly affected by lifestyle choices is Type 2 diabetes. There have been repeated warnings that this condition is threatening to overwhelm health services and, if the statistics revealed for Northern Ireland are consistent with those elsewhere, those warnings ring true.
There are 66,000 people in the province with diabetes but, according to one charity, a further 200,000 are at great risk of developing the disease. The cause is relatively simple. Too many people are obese. There is a close correlation between being overweight and developing diabetes in later life.
While the condition can be managed by medication or injection, it does have a major impact on health and can lead to a variety of complications such as blindness and amputation of toes, feet and fingers. The good news is that a change in lifestyle can dramatically reduce the chances of developing the condition. Sedentary lifestyles and junk food are the major contributors to obesity, so the answer is obvious - take more exercise and eat better.
Another health issue that is linked to lifestyle choices is the rising numbers of Down's syndrome pregnancies. In England and Wales the number of women found to be carrying babies with the condition has risen by 70% in the last 20 years. This is partly due to more sophisticated screening which is detecting the condition earlier - leading to 90% of women choosing to have an abortion. But the main reason is that women are delaying having children until later in life. The risk of a woman in her 40s having a Down's syndrome baby is 16 times greater than for a younger woman. Life can be a lottery, but making sensible lifestyle changes can greatly improve the odds of beating some conditions.