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Published:Friday | July 17, 2015 | 8:55 PM

Chronic illnesses are the leading causes of death worldwide, having taken over from infections. There have been many initiatives aimed at reducing the burden of chronic illnesses but they have yet to make any significant impact. Can they be prevented?

Chronic illnesses are long-term conditions like arthritis, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. They are considered to be usually incurable. They usually get more common as we get older. Chronic diseases result from a failure in the body's inherent ability to maintain itself properly. Why does this happen?

This occurs usually because of failure on our part to treat our bodies properly by giving it the proper resources and facilitating preventative maintenance.

We all know we need certain basic things to maintain our health. We need adequate water to keep our urine clear, urinating about every two to three hours. We also need seven to nine hours rest each day, and at least one day off each week. Healthy sunshine is also important. This is usually available in the early morning and late afternoon to evening. Generally, sunshine between the hours of 10 a.m. to

4 p.m. is not very healthy.

Stress reduction and exercise

Stress reduction and exercise is also very important to maintain good health. This should be done for 20-30 minutes, four to five days per week.

No one can discount the benefit of good nutrition. We should limit (or avoid) meat intake, processed foods, like white rice or flour, sugar, salt, burnt food and alcohol.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, bright-coloured fruits and vegetables, ground provisions, peas, beans and omega-3 sources are recommended. Smoking and use of other recreational drugs should be avoided.

It is also very important to get a proper check-up, preferably on an annual basis, to facilitate preventative maintenance, even in childhood. These visits can facilitate many interventions such as health advice, vaccinations (both in adults and children), monitoring certain parametres such as weight, blood sugar and blood pressure, risk assessment for various conditions, screening for STIs and cancers.

One of the important things to monitor for is unhealthy inflammation. This can manifest as allergies, joint pains, hormonal imbalance, abdominal pain and constipation.

These, as well as increasing blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, may indicate a need to take certain supplements and other interventions (eg ionic foot spa).

This may help prevent worsening of these problems and reduce the risk of the other above-mentioned chronic illnesses.