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We all seem to have our own particular habits and traditions, whether we’re aware of them or not (!). For us, September brings a post – or two (!) – looking ahead to the Winter bugs season. What you can do to help avoid any Lurgies doing the rounds AND what to do if the worst happens. If you want a quick reminder, here are the links to the two posts we did last year. Click here for what you can do proactively, ie, now (!) and here for what you can do if you succumb. 
 
However, with the mainstream media already gearing up for what some are calling “the Second Spike” or “Pandemic, the sequel”; we thought a slightly different approach was needed this year. So, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we’re going to focus on one set of conditions which have been found to SUBSTANTIALLY increase the risk of ANY of the winter bugs. So called “Lifestyle Diseases.” Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and the like. All of which are linked to poor lifestyle choices. Diet, dehydration, smoking, stress, lack of sleep, to name but a few… 
 
But, before we do, it’s time for yet another reminder about risk and susceptibility. Even though we’ve talked about them a number of times before, it’s amazing how many people still don’t seem to be able to grasp the implications. And, crucially, what it means for them. 
 
Sadly, there’s still a widespread belief in a Bogeyman who’s lurking out there, waiting to pounce on anyone unlucky enough pass by. It makes a great story for mainstream media, fuelling our fears and feeling of powerlessness, BUT IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE. Full stop. End of story. It’s also being used to “encourage” people down the medical route, bringing with it a false sense of security, along with many other unwanted things too… 
 
Risk – susceptibility – varies from person to person, even within the same family. Nothing is guaranteed, good or bad. There are so many variables involved – some obvious, many less so – that it’s difficult to arrive at anything other than an educated guesstimate of the particular risk for you. 
 
However, this doesn’t mean you’re a sitting duck. That there’s nothing you can do. There is, but it involves you taking a look at your life, weighing up ALL factors you’re aware of and taking any necessary or appropriate action. And remember that anything you can do to improve your overall health – big or small – will reduce your risk to any bug doing the rounds. 
 
So, let’s go back to Lifestyle Diseases and why they’re such a concern. But, please, remember that the same comments apply to any ongoing – Chronic – health issue. 
 
While it may be stating the obvious, ANY ongoing health issue will affect your overall risk and susceptibility. And, usually, in the “wrong” direction. However, this will vary from person to person depending on their particular circumstances. 
 
Why? 
 
For the simple reason that your body’s resources and energy are already under strain, so it’s not functioning at full efficiency. That’s plain old fashioned common sense. 
 
Does this mean you’re guaranteed to get whatever bug is doing the rounds? 
 
No, it just means your risk – susceptibility – is likely to be increased. 
 
Does it mean you’ll get the most severe form of it? 
 
Again, no, but it does make it more likely. 
 
And, yes, we know we’re repeating ourselves but it’s amazing how many people still don’t seem to get it… 
 
So why are Lifestyle Diseases being seen as a significant risk factor? 
 
Well, there are many reasons for this, but three stand out. 
 
The first is that the numbers of those affected has increased rapidly in recent years, despite many government campaigns and initiatives. At the same time, more and more young people are being affected. 
 
Traditionally, Lifestyle Diseases were rarely seen in those below middle age, ie, mid 40’s and above. However, in recent years, not only have numbers been increasing sharply but in those in their 20’s and 30’s. More worryingly, they’re now being regularly seen in teenagers and those in their early 20’s. 
 
The second is that Lifestyle Diseases tend to be linked, with one increasing the risk of another, often within a short period of time. The three that are causing particular concern are Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease, with the later including high cholesterol and blood pressure. 
 
Third, as the name suggests, they’re largely the result of poor lifestyle choices. Yes, we know that people often don’t want to hear this, but it’s true. This is good news – yes it is (!) – as it means they are largely under the control of the person concerned and can be addressed by relatively simple lifestyle changes… All the things we talk about regularly in this blog and with Clients. 
 
If you’re in any doubt about what this means in practice, a report by Public Health England in July 2020 graphically illustrates this. It looked at how just one Lifestyle Disease affected COVID 19 outcomes. It focussed on patients classified as overweight – rather than obese – and found they were: 
 
More than twice as likely to suffer a critical illness. 
Nearly 7 times more likely to need respiratory support. 
More than 3.5 times likely to die. 
 
More generally there was also an increased risk of being admitted to hospital as body weight increased, as well as of needing intensive care and, sadly, of death. 
 
So, why is this? 
 
Well, one common factor running through Lifestyle Diseases is Chronic inflammation. If you need a quick reminder about what this means, click here for the post we did a couple of weeks ago. All too often it starts with a poor diet which triggers a cascade of ill effects. These include raised blood sugar and fat levels, increased blood pressure, insulin resistance, excess weight – particularly in the abdominal area – and an overactive / dysfunctional immune response. This means that while the initial signs that something is amiss may vary from person to person, it’s very easy for one Lifestyle Disease to quickly lead on to another. Hence the link between Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease. 
 
More generally, if we’re just looking at excess weight – or weight in the “wrong” place, ie, round the middle (!) – it puts pressure on the internal organs. Those found in the abdomen. This, in turn, increases the pressure on the Diaphragm, making it more difficult to breathe in a respiratory infection. It also increases the risk of blood clots in the Lungs as well as susceptibility to ALL viral infections, NOT JUST COVID 19. The reason for this is quite simple, as Chronic inflammation is fuelled by an over active and dysfunctional immune response, which affects the Immune Response overall. 
 
As so often is the case, there is so much more we could write about this. However, what we want to do is encourage you to take an unbiased look at your own particular risk and what you can do to address it. If you have a Lifestyle Disease – whether you are on medication or not – it makes sense to address the underlying lifestyle issues. Ditto any Chronic – ongoing – condition. 
 
There are always things you can do to help yourself that will provide benefits far beyond this winter and the current news cycle. You’re never a powerless victim, waiting for the Bogeyman to strike. The good news – and, as some see it, bad news (!) – is that control is within your hands. 
 
As always, the choice is yours. 
 
 
Picture by unknown author 
 
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