Risk Factors and Protective Health Factors: More Knowledge, Better Results
According to estimates obtained for Portugal, within the scope of the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) study by the World Health Organization (WHO), the risk factors that most contribute to the total number of healthy years of life lost by our population are inadequate food habits, high blood pressure, high body mass index, and smoking. These are the main risk factors, often modifiable and, therefore, preventable for oncologic diseases, of the circulatory system, and for a wide range of diseases, led by diabetes, endocrine, hematologic and genitourinary diseases.
It is well known and proven that food influences health status.
In terms of risks, foods with excess calories and in particular with high levels of salt, sugar, and trans fats (processed industrially) are the main problem.
The most common poor eating habits include insufficient intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as excessive consumption of salt and processed meat.
In Portugal, the consumption of foods with excessive levels of salt is one of the main public health problems. The daily intake of salt by the Portuguese (10.7 grams) is practically double the recommended by the WHO (less than 5 grams).
On the other hand, our fruit consumption is low (less than three pieces of fruit a day), making it the avoidable food risk that contributes most to the loss of healthy years of life.
Hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor for circulatory system diseases (stroke and ischemic heart disease), which are the leading cause of death in Portugal and with proven direct relationship with the excessive intake of salt in the diet. The promotion of physical exercise throughout the entire life cycle is absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable as a protective factor for Health. adherence is lower (64% of respondents never exercised or did sport).
With regard to the child and young population, it is important that parents, teachers, and other educational agents maintain a close and systematic vigilance in reducing the time spent by children in front of monitors (television, computer, electronic games, among others), simultaneously promoting playful activities that promote physical activity. Sedentary lifestyle and excess calorie intake explain the high prevalence rates of overweight and obesity.
This situation holds a special importance for our school-age children and young people; more than 35% of children aged between six and eight have excessive corpulence (high body mass index for their age and sex). More than 14% are already obese, while the population between 10 and 18 years of age with excess weight is over 30% and obesity is around 8%.
Smoking assumes pandemic proportions, contributing to six of the eight main causes of death verified annually. Tobacco use is a cause or aggravating factor for the most prevalent non-communicable diseases, in particular cancer, respiratory diseases, brain and cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. It also presents many and varied harmful effects, namely in terms of sexual and reproductive health, decreasing fertility, and increasing foetal and perinatal mortality.
Smokers have a risk of death two to three times higher, which on average translates to a loss of ten years of potential life expectancy. Health is a fundamental factor for human development, training, and adaptability to change. Its promotion is covered by various contours, dimensions, and responsibilities, which include vigilance and individual investment, through valuation of the factors that determine it. In this new year that is now beginning, make serious, well-founded, but above all, lasting vows about promoting your health and those around you.
11, February 2020