Illness, disorder, disease – all words for indicating a condition of unease, or absence of normal good health. We usually use the word illness for a condition caused by an infection, e.g., measles or influenza. We often use the word disorder for a condition of not feeling well and having vague symptoms with no obvious cause. Disease seems to be reserved for serious adverse health conditions, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, or cancer.
Then there are so-called diseases of longevity, which are diseases that appear to increase in frequency as people age. They can include Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, nephritis or chronic renal failure, osteoporosis, and stroke. In the past century these diseases were accepted as the price of getting older because nothing was known about preventing them, and often little known about correcting them. Now in the 21st century complete or partial cures are available for some of these diseases of old age and we know a little about preventing some of them – this has been the theme of my blog. Hopefully, by the end of this century the medical establishment will know the causes of most and have suitable prevention measures and cures.
Consider a more balanced look at causes of diseases:
- Poor inherited genes
- Emotional and mental stress
- Bacteria, viruses, parasites
- Toxic chemicals
- Combinations of the above
Let’s consider how these interact. But first off, know that any one of these factors can cause disease if it is strongly present. Overwhelming stress, massive infection, and acute poisoning will each do a person in, regardless of their genes and general health. However, that is not our main concern.
Poor inherited genes can express themselves by an in-born weak immune or hormone system, making the body less able to respond to stress, microbes, or toxins. Prolonged stress can cause hypertension and hardening of the arteries. How much stress an individual can tolerate probably depends at least partly on the genes they’ve inherited. Toxic chemicals can disrupt delicate cellular mechanisms (growth, reproduction, repair, etc.); cause mutations in genes; interfere with the expression of genes (so-called epigenetic effects), damage the endocrine glands of the hormone system; and damage the multiple cells of the immune system. (Toxic chemicals are especially damaging to the fetus.) In short, each person is an integrated whole, and therefore damage to one part is likely to damage other parts.
So what is a person to do to minimize their chance of a serious disease? One, get vaccinations for children. Two, take advantage of the drugs your physician can prescribe to cure an infectious disease. Three, keep toxic chemicals out of your body by avoiding exposure to them, as described in other articles of this blog. Four, avail yourself of the many techniques for relief and prevention of prolonged stresses (e.g., meditation, yoga, psychological counseling). Fifth, eat healthy, pesticide-free foods. Sixth, get enough regular exercise – it’s not magical, but it is a superb general tonic.