We are taught that cancer and cardiovascular diseases, are multifactorial conditions. This means that they have multiple risk factors influencing them (which can be both genetic and lifestyle-related). I have a slightly different view on this. When you get to the cause on Disease, I will explain this in great detail.
These factors can interact so, for instance, if you have a genetic risk for cancer, as well as an unhealthy lifestyle, you may be at a much higher risk for these conditions. Whereas when you implement multiple healthy lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet, exercise and management of vascular risk factors (such as diabetes and hypertension) you can significantly reduce your risk, and this indeed is a very positive message.
Generally speaking, whether an individual has a genetic risk or not, unhealthy lifestyle factors (for example, an unhealthy diet or a sedentary lifestyle) increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases, among others, while a healthier lifestyle can prevent the development of such conditions.
It is important for the Health Missionary to be aware of which specific lifestyle changes may occur in certain conditions in order to enhance the sick persons experiences and quality of life, or well-being.
For example, if the person has Alzheimer’s disease, we know that it is often characterised by changes in the circadian rhythm and sleep patterns, so it is important to identify methods to enhance their sleep quality. Similarly, persons with diabetes or hypertension benefit from modifying their diet, through decreasing salt and refined sugars.
Another example is when the appetite of cancer patients changes when undergoing cancer treatment, and in such cases, it is important to adapt meal times and their content to ensure that the person obtains the necessary nutrition.
When it comes to selecting physical or mentally stimulating activities, it is important to engage in tasks that the individual enjoy, and ones that are suitable to their capacities.
Sometimes individuals fall into an "all-or-nothing" approach. For example, if one cannot walk 3 miles a day, then there is no point in trying to make them. Evidence shows that even small lifestyle changes can impact one’s health, especially when they are in a serious condition.
Walking shorter distances, is better than being completely sedentary. Also, it is extremely beneficial for Health Missionaries to remember that it is not only the sick person’s lifestyle that they should be concerned about, but their own as well. Health Missionaries can experience a great deal of stress, disrupted sleep, negative emotions, fatigue and a lack of time to maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours, such as exercise and mentally engaging activities.
Having a balanced lifestyle will allow them to take better care of their health, which in turn will enhance their caregiving.
Moreover, it is important to seek support when needed, whether related to the Health Missionary experience, or to engage in a healthier lifestyle.
we talked about different lifestyle risks and protective factors in the context of sickness.
Finally, I highlighted a few points for Health Missionaries to keep in mind, both regarding their own lifestyle and that of the person they care for.
The upcoming lectures will go into the specific topics in more detail.
Thank you for your interest and I hope you enjoy this course.