Non-communicable Diseases

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , /

Non-communicable diseases are not
contagious and therefore cannot be spread from person-to-
person within a community. They are not caused by germs or parasites, but
instead have a host of other factors that cause
or trigger them. Some non-communicable diseases are genetic. Genetic diseases are coded for in DNA so a person with this kind of illness is born with
it although they may not show symptoms of the
disease until later in life. Some examples of genetic diseases include
psoriasis, a skin condition, and cystic fibrosis, which mostly affects the
lungs, and is lethal without proper management. Huntington’s disease is another genetic disorder
in which nerve cells in the brain break down causing loss of coordinated movement and
mental decline – usually starting around age
thirty-five. Since genetic diseases are the result of
nonfunctional, or malfunctioning genes, they are
not contagious. They are hereditary however so they may be passed on from one generation
to the next. Many non-communicable diseases are the
result of lifestyle choices and behavior. A poor diet, and physical inactivity, for example
can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and many other conditions. The decision to use tobacco products could lead to asthma or a number of different
cancers, while alcohol abuse could lead to
cirrhosis, or hardening of the liver. These conditions are the result of personal
choices an individual makes for their life, and obviously are not contagious. The illnesses associated with behavior are
chronic, however; so they often have no cure, but instead require daily medications, and behavior management plans. Another cause of non-communicable diseases
involves environmental factors like pollution. Chemical contaminants in air, soil, or water can find their way into our bodies through
inhalation, absorption through the skin, or consumption of
contaminated food or water. Repeated exposure to chemical contaminants
can cause illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, lower respiratory
infections, gastric issues like diarrhea, disruption of the endocrine system, which
controls hormones, skin rashes, birth defects, and a host of different cancers. Environmental factors can also serve as triggers
for other diseases like asthma, psoriasis, or herpes. Environmentally-induced illnesses may be
experienced by many people in a community,
not because they are contagious, but rather because the people of the community
share the same environment. Diseases caused by environmental factors often
become chronic conditions that an individual will have to manage for
extended periods of time with medications or other treatments. The last cause of non-communicable diseases
that we will discuss in this lesson is age. As a person ages, body systems and organs
can wear out over time and begin to fail. Non-communicable diseases related to age are
called degenerative diseases, and include
arthritis, osteoporosis, and glaucoma, among others. Some of these diseases have environmental,
genetic, and behavioral factors that can
contribute to their development as well. Treatment of degenerative diseases may involve
daily medication regimens, pain management, or physical therapy. Many non-communicable diseases don’t have
one specific cause, but rather have a number of different factors that play into
developing the disease. Asthma is one of those diseases, and sometimes researchers just can’t figure out
why someone has it. Asthma is a condition that affects the airways of
the lungs. When an asthma attack occurs the muscles surrounding the airways tighten up,
making the airway smaller. The airways can also become inflamed and
produce extra mucus. All these things make it
very difficult to breathe, so a victim of a asthma may sound like they are
gasping or wheezing when they are having an
attack. Genetics may play a role in making someone
more prone to developing asthma. Certain lifestyle choices may contribute as well,
for example, the children of smokers are more
likely to develop asthma because they are exposed to secondhand
smoke. A multitude of environmental factors may serve
as triggers for an asthma attack, for example,
air pollution, allergies, and exercise. While the exact cause of asthma is not well
understood, one thing is certain: you cannot catch asthma
from another person since it is a non-
communicable disease. Like many non-communicable diseases, asthma
is chronic, and there is no cure. Instead, the disease must be managed with a
combination of medication, like inhalers, and behavior modification, for example avoiding
triggers like allergens, rigorous exercise, or smoking. Heart disease is another non-communicable
disease whose cause is often complex. Lifestyle choices like smoking, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits all
contribute to developing heart disease. Certain chemicals in the environment could play
a part as well. Genetics may also make an individual more
likely to develop heart disease. As with asthma and other non-communicable
diseases, patients do not receive cures from
their doctors, but rather a daily disease management plan. For heart disease, the management plan may
include a daily diet and exercise regime, daily medications, and possibly even surgery. It is important to have a daily management plan
for non-communicable diseases because it helps an affected individual live a relatively
healthy life, despite their disease. Management plans identify the patients specific
needs and provide a list of actions necessary to keep
symptoms in check. Without a management plan, a person with a
chronic disease could experience a worsening of
their condition, and possibly even death. Since genetics, environmental factors, and age
play a role in developing non-communicable diseases, it may seem like there is nothing that
can be done to prevent them. There are, however, some actions that can help
prevent, or reduce the severity of non-
communicable diseases. A healthy diet and regular exercise, along with
routine checkups and health screenings, are a
few steps you can take to stay healthy. We will discuss these preventative measures in
greater detail in a later lesson.

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