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Modifiable and Non-modifiable factors influencing Health
Ever since the era of advent of modern civilization and mechanization of lifestyles, we have witnessed several changes in aspects leveraging human health. Contrary to popular opinion, health isn’t concerned with just the physical state. The World Health organization (WHO) defines health in its 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” [ ][ ] Hence health encompasses holistic wellness of every individual and the exact reason as to why several factors come to interplay influencing various aspects of health among which modifiable and non-modifiable factors.
Modifiable factors encompass nutrition, weight, exercise, smoking and sedentary behavior is the likes of it.
Nutrition remains one of the critical factors least attended to. Healthy eating comprises limiting the intake of foods with saturated fats, excess sugars and salts while increasing consumption of fruits, cereals, nuts, lean meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and low fat milk products. A balanced diet with intake of lots of water is a necessity. Eating disorders must be assessed and treated.
With the increasing awareness of our generation to weight issues, regular physical activity is undoubtedly the answer to prevention of lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, atherosclerosis, etc. Besides, exercise strengthens up the muscles and bones providing for a sculpted body, attractive built thus improving mental health. The recommended physical activity- minimum 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least 5 days per week is quite basic and can be incorporated to the daily routine.3
Staying on the safer range of BMI (body mass index) ensures prevention of obesity keeping the energy levels, mood and concentration in check, preventing the advent of risk factors associated with chronic morbidities . Obese people are more likely to develop a range of chronic conditions4. The weight distribution of almost the whole population is shifting upwards – the slim are becoming less slim while the fat are getting fatter4. Current ways of life encourage them to eat more and exercise less. This includes the availability of cheap and heavily marketed energy-rich foods, the increase in labor-saving devices (e.g. lifts and remote controls) and the increase in avoidance of public transport.
The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics say that the harmful use of alcohol results in the death of 2.5 million people annually. Worldwide, there are approximately 1 billion smokers, and it is estimated by WHO that 6 million die prematurely each year as a result of their habit. Similarly, use of illicit drugs is responsible for deterioration on health, performance and cognition resulting in early deaths.
Before the blame game, let us know what sedentary behavior is. Sedentary behavior has been defined as any activity that has a metabolic expenditure (MET) ranging from >1.0 to 1.5, 1 MET being energy expenditure at rest. Sedentary activities include anything that involves static sitting. They have been linked to higher risk of early death, in particular from cardiovascular disease, besides increasing rates of type-2 diabetes, few cancers and obesity.[ ]
Besides the above factors, there are others aspects affecting health, some of which are more easily modifiable than the others . These include individual factors like skills, knowledge, attitude; socioeconomic factors like income and education; environmental factors like location and access to health facilities as well as technology.
After the facets that can be transformed, there comes the strands that cannot be changed much since it’s the nature that is acting Lucifer.
According to Davidson’s manual, ageing can be defined as a progressive accumulation through life of random molecular defects that build up within tissues and cells . Eventually, despite multiple repair and maintenance mechanisms, these result in age-related functional impairment of tissues and organs. Diseases like dementia, osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis are inevitable with advancing age due to molecular damage made by reactive oxygen species produced during the metabolism of oxygen to produce cellular energy.
Genetic makeup of each individual is unique and passed on from the parents via various patterns of inheritance. These intrinsic pathways of inheritance can sometimes result in mutations or variation in genetics. The consequence of an individual mutation depends on various factors, including the mutation type, the nature of the gene product and the position of the variant in the protein. Mutations can have profound effects or subtle effects on gene and cell function. Variations that have profound effects are responsible for ‘classical’ genetic diseases, whereas those with precise effects may contribute to the pathogenesis of complex diseases with a genetic component.
The immune system consists of an intricately linked network of cells, proteins and lymphoid organs that are strategically placed to ensure maximum protection against infection. Immune defenses are normally categorized into the innate immune response, which provides immediate protection against an invading pathogen, and the adaptive or acquired immune response, which takes more time to develop but confers exquisite specificity and long-lasting protection. The consequences of deficiencies of the immune system include recurrent infections, autoimmunity and susceptibility to malignancy. Immune deficiency may arise through inherent defects in immune function, but is much more commonly due to secondary causes, including infection, drug therapy, malignancy and ageing.
Factors like family, media, ethnicity and religion influence the social construct of health . Family peers and ethnic practices can prove either beneficial or harmful depending upon their nature. Family habits like healthy food habits and involvement in sports assure optimal health in the forthcoming generations while negative practices amongst peers like drug addiction and binge drinking make one vulnerable to social pressure. Similarly, media sources play pivotal role in raising awareness towards several important health issues while some others lead to misconceptions about health.
Had there not been this huge a spectrum of factors playing intermediary after industrialization, it would have been slight easier to be in harmony with one’s own health. Throughout human evolution, unnatural deaths have come down to almost nil while lifestyle changes and sedentary habits continue to be peak causes of chronic morbities. At the individual level, one is responsible for their own health while at population levels healthy lifestyles must be sermonized.