What do heart disease, diabetes, and pain all have in common?
Pop Quiz: What do heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and pain have in common?
Answer: Chronic inflammation
If you’ve been reading all the other posts in this series, you probably guess it was chronic inflammation.
Why should you care?
1 in 3 Americans have at least 1 chronic condition that leads to chronic inflammation
1 in 2 of the Americans with a chronic disease have at least 2.
And it’s not just Americans, the World Health Organization estimates that worldwide chronic health conditions are directly responsible for 71% of all deaths. Furthermore, 82% of these deaths are premature deaths, dying before the age of 70, due to chronic health conditions.
Many of these types of diseases are preventable. Including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, metabolic disease, and certain cancers.
The biggest overall contributing factor in preventing disease is lifestyle. Physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, diets high in ultra-processed foods, and tobacco use have all been shown to increase your risks for chronic disease.
Physical Inactivity + Ultra Processed Foods
Physical inactivity is defined as less than the recommended minimal activity per week. This is not the same as exercise. Exercise is a subcategory of physical activity and implies a structured format and not overall physical activity. Physical activity includes broader categories like work physical activity (for example construction work), playtime, recreational activities, walking to work/bus/subway, and house chores.
In the land of Fitness & Exercise, we sometimes refer to these areas as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the technical term used to describe calorie burning within our bodies. This includes all the various ways we can add extra movement to our days. One of the easiest ways to incorporate this into your lives is to park furthest away from the front door of your workplace or while shopping.
One of the most amusing things to me, in my many years of working in a brick and mortar gym, is to watch people circle around and around the parking lot waiting to get the closest spot possible. You are coming into a gym, why does it matter where you park? Why be late for your appointment or class just because you couldn’t park next to the front door?
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule for folks who legitimately need to have close parking spots - there never seems to be enough handicap parking for the people who really need it or the spots for new parents with car seats & carriages.
Ultra-processed foods are the most processed of all foods and include food items like frozen meals, shelf-stable boxed meals, and those with many additives (food preservatives, food dyes, vitamin/mineral enhancements). Processed foods, the next level down are foods with added salt, sugar, and fats. Foods that no longer resemble their original form fall into the ultra-processed category as well as those that are chemically created like cheese-like products.
While the exact link between these foods and higher rates of chronic disease is still yet unknown, there are several reasons that are considered the most likely culprits: excess salt, sugar, trans fats, & saturated fats. These four items tend to be higher in most ultra-processed foods. Each of them on their own is known to cause or increase chronic disease. So the leap to limit ultra-processed foods is highly encouraged. The average American diet consists of 60% of processed foods (including those that only have salt, sugar, or fat additives.
In previous articles, we discussed how processed foods cause inflammation to increase and how physical activity decreases inflammation. These are some of the natural ways you can have a major impact on your current and future health. If you’d like to learn more about these and other ways, join our FREE 5 Day Challenge: Naturally Reduce Inflammation.