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A few weeks ago – goodness, it was mid February (!) – we had a look at susceptibility. Why there is no bogeyman – with your name written on them (!) – out there waiting for you. If you need a quick reminder, you can find the post here
As so often is the case, this has led on to various conversations with clients, friends and family about what actually determines susceptibility. In other words, the Risk Factors. The things most likely to tip the odds for you in the wrong direction. 
Before we go any further, there’s one very important thing to bear in mind. That we’re all completely unique. In every way. There’s never been another person exactly like us and never will be again. So, however similar we may be to another person – or people – our own particular make up, circumstances, life and medical history are unique to us. 100%. 
Yes, there are a list of general Risk Factors, but how they affect each of us will be different. Both in terms of the particular Risk Factors that affect us AND ALSO their combination and relative strength, if that’s the right word. 
This means that even if one or more Risk Factors are affecting us, it’s still NOT GUARANTEED that x, y or z will happen. The likelihood – susceptibility – may have changed, but the end result is NEVER guaranteed. And, yes, we know we’ve rather laboured the point but it’s really important to understand that NOTHING in life is 100% certain to happen. 
We’ve all seen examples of people making all the “wrong” choices health wise in life and seeming to escape unscathed. Having said that, things do tend to catch up with them in some way and at some stage; even if it’s many years – or decades – later… Smokers, drinkers, stress bunnies, couch potatoes. 
Or, those doing some of the “right things”, while being careful to keep the “wrong things” hidden. And, however much people may like to think they can out exercise a poor diet or heavy drinking, this is never the case. You know who you are! 
Similarly, we’ve also seen those who seem to be doing all the “right things” but don’t reap the benefits. Ironically, the reason for this is often that these “positive” choices are being made negatively. In other words, are fuelled by fear and not wanting to be ill, rather than on being healthy. “I don’t want to be ill / to succumb to x, y or z.” While these may sound like the same end result, unfortunately, focussing on avoiding what we don’t want will NEVER bring us what we do… 
Added to this, all the negative energy being poured into the situation on an ongoing basis PLUS having to work at making the “right” choices, quickly erodes away the positive effect of all the “right things” being done. This is why we’ve spent so much time this year talking about mindset, as this is often the difference between someone doing well or not. 
The bottom line – and good news – is that we all have much more control over our lives than we would like to admit. Once we know a little about how our bodies work AND what the general Risk Factors are, we can then take steps to address the ones which affect us in particular. 
And, as an aside, for those of you who still want a bogeyman “out there” to point the finger at, let’s quickly dispel another all too common myth. That your genetics are fixed at birth and determine your lifelong health. So, you’re bound to suffer from similar health problems to your parents and wider family. 
Well, research is increasingly showing that this is not the case. The fascinating – and still controversial, as far as mainstream medicine is concerned – field of Epigenetics demonstrates that our genes can be turned “on” and “off” at different times. And guess what determines this? Yes, the simple things we do every day. The way we live our lives…. 
So, before we digress any further, what are the top general Risk Factors? Well, they’re the things we talk about regularly in this blog: 
• Poor diet 
• Dehydration 
• Lack of exercise 
• Smoking 
• Regular / heavy / binge drinking 
• Lack of sleep 
• Ongoing / acute stress 
They’re also known as “Lifestyle Factors”, the way we choose to live our lives every day. While we don’t like using the car analogy, it does work reasonably well in this instance. So, here we go. You wouldn’t expect your car to perform well if you: 
• Put in the wrong fuel (diet) 
• Didn’t regularly top up the oil (hydration) 
• Only drove your car occasionally, thrashed it to death or forgot to take the handbrake off (exercise) 
• Didn’t replace the filters (smoking) 
• Didn’t service it regularly (sleep / stress) 
But here’s the rub. These factors – and often a combination of them – not only affect your general health – and any ongoing tendencies / problems – but also increase your overall susceptibility, particularly to infectious diseases. Whether Coughs and Colds, or something more serious… 
And the top three medical Risk Factors found behind many other chronic – as in long term – health problems are: 
Obesity, for many different reasons, but particularly as it lowers immune function and increases susceptibility to infections generally. 
Diabetes, also reduces immune function. In addition, increased blood sugar levels affect blood pressure, heart function and makes the blood more acidic which, ironically, also affects the immune response. 
Hypertension, high blood pressure, disrupts the immune function as well as affecting the Heart. 
Sadly, it’s all too easy to see how poor lifestyle choices fuel these problems. That’s not to say it’s an easy message to hear… 
Other Risk Factors include: 
Anyone with an already compromised Immune System. For example, from chemotherapy, radiotherapy, steroids or other treatment / condition that reduces the Immune System’s functioning. 
Kidney and Liver Disease, with both of these playing important roles in removing toxins from the body as well as the Heart and circulation. 
Brain / Nervous System Diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis for many different reasons. 
Lung Diseases, as the Lungs work with the Heart / Blood System, as well as being an important first line Immune defence. 
Any chronic / ongoing health issue – regardless of the age – makes a person more generally susceptible for the simple reason that the body is already working harder / less efficiently. 
Those over 70 years of age, with the body functioning less efficiently overall as we age. Although, having said that, older people in good health and without any chronic health issues, do not usually have any greater susceptible than those of younger years (!). 
Pregnancy, again, due to the greater demands already being placed on the body by the pregnancy although with the same caveat as for older people. 
When you stop and think about it, Risk Factors and susceptibility are all about a little thought and common sense. The most difficult part we’ve already alluded to, accepting that we each have more control than we’d like to admit over our own health and susceptibility. This means taking a long – and more objective – look at our ourselves and how we choose to live our lives. And then, as we always say, it’s doing the little things each day that help ourselves and our health, while reducing our individual susceptibility. 
As always, the choice is yours. 
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