Modify Your Risk of Chronic Disease

Most people are aware of the common risk factors for their health. Smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy foods – all can contribute to chronic conditions. I enjoy having a beer with my friends, and I know that that might not always be good for me. It is important that these activities be weighed against the overall risk to your life. Today, we’re going to tackle the biggest three risk factors over the next few videos. Today, we’ll be focusing on aging. I would encourage you to just pay special attention to these as you go through your day.

First, some important terms to define:

  • Risk Factor: something that increases risk
  • Chronic Disease: a broad term for a condition that lasts more than 1 year and requires ongoing medical attention.


I’m gonna have you all think at home what is the primary risk factor for chronic disease. Choose one:

  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Depression, or
  • Eating fruit loops for breakfast

The answer is aging. Aging is not a modifiable risk factor – it is not something you can change. So we have to do our best to minimize the negative effects of these multiple systems interacting as we age. Every system in and of itself is complicated, but the aging on top of that just makes them even more complex to manage.

Modifiable vs Unmodifiable Risk Factors

We kind of know there are things that you can change about your body: high blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, smoking, physical activity, your diet. In fact, 60 to 70 percent of health is determined by behaviors we can influence, if not control.

While you cannot control the size of your prostate, you can influence its effect on your nightly urination by improving the muscle system and the nerve system around your prostate. We can influence and control our breathing to help our mood and our nervous system.

The non-modifiable risks are factos such as our genetic makeup, anything that happened in the past, or unavoidable biological factors which are associated with aging. These are the really glaringly obvious parts of health that we cannot control.

Muscle Loss

We’re going to talk more about this in the next lecture. One condition in particular I would like to discuss is sarcopenia, which is age-related muscle loss. Sarcopenia is the amount of muscle tissue you’re going to lose every year starting when you’re about 60. However, this can start at 50 for females. We still don’t even know the root mechanism of sarcopenia – this age-related muscle loss.

When I usually ask people when they notice themselves getting weak or having trouble with balance or strength, it’s usually like when they’re 60 or 70. But if this process naturally starts when we’re 40 or 50, why didn’t you notice it? The body is starting to like lose that cellular regeneration in our forties, but it becomes more prevalent with age.

Stay tuned as we continue to explore these risks factors to chronic disease.

– Patrick Donovan

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