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Diet tops disease risk for Canadians


Recently CBC News reported that eating a poor quality diet is the leading risk factor for diseases and injuries that cause Canadians to die prematurely and become disabled.

This was based on International researchers analyzing the country’s rates of sickness and death from 1990 to 2010 and compared it with 15 Western European countries, Austraia and the U.S.  The project is known as the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, at the University of Washington and describes causes and death and disability across age groups and sexes for 187 countries around the world.

Canada was ranked 5th out of 19 countries for life expectancy at 69.6 years.  Spain was at the top with a healthy life expectancy of 70.9.  The U.S. came in 17th at 67.9 years.

According to Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, Seattle, the leading risk factor in Canada was dietary, followed by tobacco smoking and high body mass index.

The highest ranking causes in terms of years lost due to premature death were:

  • Ischemic heart disease – being a reduction of blood supply to heart muscle, usually felt as angina e.g. atherosclerosis.
  • Trachea, bronchus and lung cancers.
  • Cerebrovascular disease – a condition that affects circulation of blood to the brain causing limited or no blood flow to the affected areas of the brain, e.g. atherosclerosis is one cause.

For disability, the highest ranking cause was road injury.  Thankfully, road injury showed the largest decrease in Canada, falling 31% in the past 20 years.

In general, worldwide “non-communicable diseases” such as diabetes and cancer are on the rise while communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional causes such as diarrhea are declining.

What should we take away from these findings?  That we have more influence and control over our health than we may believe.  Simply by following a health-promoting diet and making changes in our lifestyle, we greatly influence not only our longevity but our quality of life.  The key is to find out what a health-promoting diet looks like for your specific needs by contacting a nutritionist, dietician or other health practitioner who specializes in nutrition.

As Hippocrates said “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food”.

By Evelyne Mitskopoulos, CNP