By Anne Malatt and Paul Moses, Australia.
In the not-so-distant past, contagious or communicable diseases were greatly feared, and the cause of many deaths, often on a mass scale. The Black Plague, the Spanish Flu, and smallpox all come to mind and are seared in our collective memories. With the advent of modern sanitation and medicine, these diseases have become much less common. As they have waned, the importance of non-communicable diseases has risen.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases (NCDs) now account for 68% of all deaths, worldwide, every year. (1)
In Australia, chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness, disability and death, accounting for 90% of all deaths in 2011. (2)
What are non-communicable diseases (NCDs)?
The four main types of non-communicable diseases are:
- Cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and strokes)
- Chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and
NCDs are largely preventable
Non-communicable diseases are largely preventable, through interventions that address the main risk factors, which are:
- Tobacco use
- Harmful use of alcohol
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity (3)
Eliminating major risk factors could prevent most NCDs
If the major risk factors for non-communicable disease were eliminated, around 75% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and 40% of cancer cases would be prevented. (4)
This is huge.
The largest causes of death are largely preventable, by modifying our lifestyles.
Knowing this (and we do) why do we still choose to live in a certain way, especially a way that is known to cause illness and disease?
Why do we choose to eat too much and to eat junk food, to smoke and drink, and lounge on the lounge watching TV?
We all know that these behaviours are harming us, so why do we do them, and then continue to repeat them, even when we can see and feel the consequences of these choices?
What do these behaviours do for us?
Is it possible that we use these behaviours in a specific way to not feel particular emotions we don’t want to feel?
Why do we smoke?
We may smoke because we are lonely – we miss ourselves, we miss true connections with other people, and some would say we miss our connection with our true purpose in life, and with God. Sure, cigarettes can be addictive, but there has to be an emptiness there for us to want to fill ourselves with smoke, a coldness and a dampness there that we warm, if only for a moment, when we breathe in stuff that’s on fire!
Why do we drink?
Alcohol can feel like our best friend too. We can use it as a substitute for truly caring for ourselves. The sugar picks us up and the alcohol numbs us, for a moment, from the sadness, the tiredness and the tension that we feel, but it is a poison for our bodies that we use instead of truly dealing with how we feel.
Why do we eat too much, or eat food loaded with fat, sugar and salt?
We eat for all sorts of reasons, but these foods offer us comfort – they can fill an emptiness and they offer us a degree of numbness from our pain and suffering, that allows us to carry on as we are – and they are cheap, quick and readily available.
And why don’t we move?
Many of us are exhausted and have given up on ourselves, and on life. And in time, this way of being can lead to depression, obesity, and further inactivity.
But these are not natural behaviours – they are learned behaviours.
And where do we learn them?
The vast majority of these behaviours are set up in our family home. We learn to eat, drink and live in a certain way from the people we grow up with, in most cases, from our parents. It can be very hard to change these behaviours that we learn at an early age, and many of us find ourselves repeating them, even if we swore we would not, as we observed them when we were young. These are not just ways of eating and drinking, but ways of living and being with each other. And they are ways we have developed to try and not feel the stress and tension, to numb the ill-at-ease, of our everyday lives.
So, if the way we live can lead to illness and disease, and these illnesses are largely due to our lifestyle and largely preventable, is it possible that these diseases are contagious too?
We don’t think of diseases such as heart attacks and arthritis as being contagious…but what if they are?
What if diseases that ‘run in the family’ (which we now call ‘genetic’) are just as contagious as the common cold?
What if the way we are with each other and the way we live can be passed on just as easily as the bugs we sneeze onto other people when we are sick?
How would this understanding change the way we viewed illness and disease, and the way we viewed raising families and being with each other?
If we saw that chronic diseases may also be contagious, through passing on the way we live, we would see that how we live can make a difference to our own health, and to that of everyone around us.
We have a responsibility for the choices we make, that affect the energy we are in, that then affects everyone, just as if we passed on an infectious disease.
But hang on!
Laughter is also contagious.
Joy is contagious.
So is harmony.
So is stillness.
And the power of these feelings is far stronger than the force of the emotions that can lead to dis-ease.
It is our choice – whether to live in a way that leads us to illness and disease, or to live in a way that offers harmony, love, stillness, truth and joy, for ourselves and for everyone we meet.
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- The fat myth continues
- Bad luck causes cancer… and the world is flat
- The Art of Healing through Living