It is always better to prevent than to cure, especially where chronic diseases are concerned. The sad truth is, there is no cure for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

These non-communicable diseases are closely related to lifestyle and have major public health implications. I know because for the longest time, my family and I have been neglecting our health so much so our weight ballooned up.

It was when my late father was diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes that we were jolted to the reality. And we realize that the risk factors for these chronic diseases are mostly related to diet. Therefore, to prevent these diseases from occurring, we have to watch what we eat.

Obesity is strongly related to chronic diseases and the possibility of early death. Overweight and obese individuals usually have high levels of triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol), while having low HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol). This increases the likelihood of clogged arteries which can result in heart attack and stroke.

Obese individuals are three times more likely to have high blood pressure. It has also been found that 50% of Type 2 diabetics are obese.

According to Rekha Naidu, a consultant dietician and member of the Malaysian Dieticians Association, one of the main reasons for obesity is excessive intake of fat. Even if a diet high in fat does not lead to obesity, it can increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

A high-protein diet, especially one rich with animal protein, can lead to high LDL-cholesterol levels and increase the risk of chronic diseases.

Too much protein can also induce the loss of calcium through the urine. The lack of calcium can thus lead to osteoporosis. A very-high-protein diet is especially risky for those with diabetes, because it can speed the progression of diabetic renal disease.

Those on low-carbohydrate diets are at higher risk of chronic diseases. This is because the fibre in complex carbohydrate foods can prevent heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

Mineral deficiency is another risk factor. Calcium is crucial in maintaining bone strength. Therefore, calcium deficiency throughout childhood and adulthood will result in osteoporosis at a later age.

Foods rich in calcium can also prevent high blood pressure and certain forms of cancer, and also lower LDL cholesterol levels.

We also have to watch out for carcinogenic foods. These are foods that contain cancer-causing agents. Examples of these include mouldy food (especially mouldy peanuts), charred meat, cured and smoked foods, and some spoiled foods.

Over-consumption of alcohol can also increase the risk of cancer of the mouth and pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and particularly the liver.

In short, it is pertinent for us, especially those who want to lose weight to adopt a balanced diet program. Not only will it chase away diseases, you’ll feel better and rejuvenated most of the time.

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