Is modern life making you sick?

Is modern life making you sick?  Here’s what to do about it.
Our modern lives are more prosperous and physically easier than at any time in the past, but the benefits of the modern lifestyle also pose their own health problems.  Long hours spent hunched over our computers or mobile devices or sitting at desks leave little time for exercise. Blood moves slowly and sluggishly around your body, leading to varicose veins or dangerous blood clots.  Often office environments don’t have fresh air or much natural light. After a busy day at work it’s easier and faster to buy takeaways than to prepare a healthy meal.

World Health Organisation data show that lifestyle diseases kill 38 million people each year.  The key causes of lifestyle health problems include:

Lack of physical activity

Western culture’s focus on sedentary jobs, recreation in front of the TV or mobile device instead of outside means we get less exercise than in the past. This lack of physical activity is associated with a wide range of health problems and diseases such as obesity, heart disease, deep vein thrombosis and depression.

What you can do

The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity to stay healthy and there’s a form of exercise to suit every age and level of fitness.  Activities like brisk walking, swimming or dancing pump blood around your body and strengthen muscles; more gentle activities like gardening or aqua-jogging will also help improve your fitness. Dealing with varicose veins early helps prevent more serious conditions developing.

Unclean air

Consumer culture demands high energy consumption, leading to air pollution from industrial activity and motor vehicle emissions.  Many 21st Century knowledge workers spend their days in enclosed buildings where air recirculates again and again, creating ‘sick building syndrome’. Breathing polluted air can cause not only chronic respiratory problems but also lung disease, Heart disease and cancer.  

What you can do

The choices we make every day can help reduce air pollution. Here are some easy things to do to improve air quality where you are: Conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances. Recycle to conserve energy and reduce production emissions.  Plant trees. Use environmentally friendly water-based paints. Take the bus or a bike instead of the car.

Unhealthy diets

The foods we eat in our busy modern lives often don’t provide the right balance of nutrients and energy we need to preserve our health.   Convenience foods are cheap and easy at the end of a long day, but they are often low in fibre or high in fat, sugar and salt. In the short term, poor nutrition can limit our concentration, make us tired and contribute to stress.  Over the longer term, unhealthy eating contributes to problems including obesity, high cholesterol and eating disorders.

What you can do

Make sure you get the full range of nutrients by eating a wide range of fresh vegetables, healthy proteins like lean meats or eggs and naturally fibrous foods like wholegrains and coconuts. Balance your calorie intake and keep active for whole body health.

Mental health issues

Social media and consumer culture is more secular and individualistic than in the past. We enjoy the fruits of material success but are sometimes left feeling empty inside.   Many people consider that modern culture encourages isolation, loneliness, depression and anxiety.

What you can do

Taking simple, active steps to slow down, reflect and be grateful have been shown to make you happier. There is a lot of wonderful advice out there about mindfulness techniques, breathing exercises and how to connect with people. Consult a health professional if you’re suffering consistent bad feelings.