Introduction

            Health
is generally a complex and multifactorial issue and is influenced by several
aspects including employment, living conditions, age, education, and family
history. Various health-related and lifestyle habits can affect a person’s
health and wellbeing. Several major health and lifestyle issues are major in
modern societies. They include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, physical activity,
diabetes, and obesity among others. These issues are increasingly becoming
popular today. However, the increased popularity is not only caused by their
increased occurrence but also by the progress made in medical science. This is
because, with the progress, it has become easy to diagnose health issues. This
report features four topic reports that seek to expound on four major health
and lifestyle issues including cardiovascular disease, cancer, physical
activity and obesity. Specifically, the topic reports will focus on the
lifestyle behaviours that cause the issues, statistics that demonstrate their
prevalence, the risks associated with them, the national policies that focus on
the specific issues and the various interventions that have been implemented to
influence lifestyle behaviours.

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Cardiovascular
disease

            Cardiovascular
disease (CVD) stands as the largest cause of death in the world. CVD is not a
single health issue or disease but a cluster of them that harm or affect the
human cardiovascular system. This includes the heart and blood vessels. Ideally,
though not always, CVD affects people after their youth, typically and rising
sharply in the years after the 30 and 44 age range (Lakka and Bouchard, 2005). However,
it is assumed that people who end up getting forms of CVD, they already
identify with the beginnings of the disease by the time they are 35 years old
(Lakka and Bouchard, 2005). The collection of CVD issues include angina, deep
vein thrombosis, peripheral arterial disease, congenital heart disease, aortic
aneurysm, rheumatic heart disease, coronary heart disease and stroke among
other less common cardiovascular diseases like heart tumours, and brain
vascular tumours (Dahlöf, 2010). Most cardiovascular diseases share symptoms
and, for this reason, without proper diagnosis, it may be difficult to identify
the specific disease an individual has (Scarborough et al., 2011). Some of
these infections include chest tightness and pain, chest discomfort and
pressure, pain, weakness, or numbness in one’s limbs if blood vessels in these
parts are narrowed, shortness of breath, fatigue, and light-headedness among
others. Given that CVD is a collection of diseases, some symptoms are specific
to specific diseases. For instance, the signs and symptoms of stroke include
trouble in speaking, understanding and walking and paralysis while the main
symptom of heart attack or cardiac arrest is unresponsiveness and loss of
consciousness (Daviglus et al., 2012).

            At
present, more than 17 million people around the world succumb to CVD every
year. In developed countries like the United Kingdom, the mortality rate
associated with CVD has dropped in the last decade following improvements made
in treatment. The two major risk factors for CVD are diabetes and obesity, and
the increase in the prevalence of these risk factors is expected to directly
translate to an increase in CVD cases (Daviglus et al., 2012). In the UK, about
26 percent of all deaths are as a result of CVD. This is about 160,000 yearly
deaths, an average of one death every three minutes or 435 deaths every day. In
addition, about 7 million people in the UK are living with a form of CVD, a
number that is equally split across genders (3.5 million males and 3.5 million
females) (Nason, 2008). Further, the number is expected to increase further as
a result of an ageing and growing population and better survival rates
resulting from improved treatment.

            There
are several life risk factors that increase the possibility of developing CVD. These
risk factors include modifiable risk factors such as poor diet, cigarette
smoking and physical inactivity (Dahlöf, 2010). In fact, estimate indicates
that about 20,000 deaths in the UK are caused by forms of CVD that can be
attributed to smoking behaviour. In addition, about two out of five UK adults
do not meet the recommended levels of daily physical activity, and more than three-quarters
of UK adults and four-fifths of children take the recommended minimum portions
of vegetables and fruit every day. Other risk factors that are not related to
lifestyle choices include air pollution, gender, age, ethnicity, and family
history.

            Lastly,
several policies have been set out to address CVD. In the UK, there are comprehensive
and stringent policies that seek to combat tobacco use. However, they have not
prevented the increase in the percentage of smokers in the country. The UK
government has also been identified to engage in consultations regarding sugar
reduction policies and the introduction of taxes on unhealthy food or
non-alcoholic beverages (Public Health England, 2017). Combining these
interventions in a set of comprehensive strategies may give rise to a more
efficient and effective approach.

Cancer

            By
definition, cancer is a disease that is caused by the division of abnormal
cells in an uncontrolled fashion in a specific part of the body. It can also be
referred to as a tumour or malignant growth that results from the uncontrolled
division of cells (Frei, 2012). There are numerous types of cancers all of
which are caused by different aspects of lifestyle, and the environment (Knapton, 2015). The most
common types of cancer include breast cancer, prostate cancer, basal cell
cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, leukaemia, lymphoma, skin cancer, and
melanoma among others (Kandoth et al., 2013). Like CVD, symptoms associated
with cancer vary widely and may even never occur at all (Brown, Winters?Stone,  Lee and Schmitz, 2012). However, most cancer
patients have unexplained fevers abnormal bumps, unintentional weight loss, and
night sweats.

            Ideally,
every individual has some level of risk of developing cancer. This is risk can
be affected by the environment, lifestyle, or a combination of genes (Parkin, Boyd
and Walker, 2011). In most cases, the exact reason an individual develops most
cancers is not often known. Behavioural risk factors for cancer include smoking
and about one in every five cancer cases and one in every four cases are linked
to smoking. Smoking has been identified to increase the likelihood of many
cancers including cancers of the throat, mouth, bowel, stomach, kidney,
bladder, pancreas, and cervix among others (Kandoth et al., 2013). Other
lifestyle risk factors for cancer include drinking, air pollution, and sun
exposure.

            In
the UK, an estimated 2.5 million people live with cancer. This number is
forecasted to rise to about 4 million by the year 2030. By 2015, the number of
cancer patients in the UK increased by almost fifty percent since 2010.
However, there have been cases of survival where patients survived more than five
years since they were diagnosed with cancer. Between 2010 and 2015 the number
of cancer survival cases increased by more than twenty-one percent. Estimations
indicate that cancer cases in the UK increase by 3% every year while survival
cases are expected to increase by a million every decade. According to the
Office of National Statistics, in England and Wales, cancer stood as the
leading cause of avoidable death.

            The
UK government has over the years sought to address the cancer challenge through
funding of cancer research and providing an environment that supports the
ground-breaking discoveries in as far as cancer is concerned. Granted that
people have the right to smoke and live the lifestyles they desire, the UK
government finds it best to ensure that people are informed about the risks
associated with their behaviours. To control tobacco smoking, a risk factor
that has been identified to be a leading risk in many types of cancer, the UK
government has been committed to ban tobacco advertising, providing specialist
NHS smoking services, and the formation of the Committee of Safety of Medicines
to offer oversight and information regarding the behaviour (Cancer Research UK,
2014). Additionally, several interventions have been put in place to see to it
that cancer is prevented or controlled. For instance, Nicotine Replacement
Therapy was made available from general practitioners on prescription. Further,
a new treatment called Zyban was devised and has been available on prescription
(Cancer Research UK, 2014). Lastly, a media campaign against smoking was run
and was followed by an NHS smokers helpline (Cancer Research UK, 2014). These
interventions sought to address smoking and act as a foundation to propel
efforts geared at addressing the cancer challenge.

Physical
activity

            Physical
activity is arguably the most basic human function. Humans have over the years
developed to complex organisms capable of carrying out various physical activities
sometimes simultaneously. However, the 21st century has seen a
decline in physical activities, and people have begun to ignore their
importance in overall health and well-being of a person. This has been mostly due
to the fact that food and most amenities are easily accessible, a development
that has caused a significant increase obesity prevalence around the world. Unlike
the other topics, physical exercise is an element of lifestyle and involves
walking, cycling, active play, gardening, dancing, work-related activity, engaging
in competitive sport and active recreation like gym (O’Donovan et al., 2010). Physical
activity engaged in a regular manner has been identified to reduce the risk of
several chronic conditions including CVD, cancer, diabetes, and obesity as well
as musculoskeletal conditions. Rhodes (2017), claims that regular physical
exercise stands as an effective primary and secondary preventive strategy
against chronic  of adults meet the
recommended guidelines for physical activity. However, the prevalence is
slightly higher for men compared to women and considerably lower for older
adults and youth in higher income nations (Powell, Paluch and Blair, 2011). According
to the results of the 2014/15 Active People Survey, 36% people above the age of
16 engaged in sports at least once every week with more than half of them
engaging in three or more occasions. Self-reporting statistics indicate that
66% of men in England met the recommended levels while 56% of women claimed to
meet them (Sustrans, n.d). However, self-reporting statistics are sometimes suspect and may
be lower in reality (Sustrans,
n.d).

            Ideally,
no action is safe from risks and thus, even physical activity, a health issue
that seeks to reduce most health risks, identifies with certain levels of risk.
Intense physical activity increases the risk of sudden cardiac arrest death by
a factor of five for physically fit individuals and a factor of 56 for their
unfit counterparts (O’Donovan et al., 2010). In addition, physical activity
exposes one to the risk of injury, particularly to the knees, feet, and ankles
when engaging in vigorous sports. Physical activity also exposes one to the
risk of “exercise addiction.” With ‘exercise addiction, people become hooked to
physical activity to the detriment of other aspect like relationships and work.

            There
are very few government policies on physical activity if any. However, there has
been a wide range of interventions that have been implemented to change
lifestyle behaviours towards more physical activity for all. These
interventions have been on several levels including population level, community
level, and family and individual level (Public Health England, n.d). With population
levels, health boards have bee noted to include physical activity in their JSNA
(Joint Strategic Needs Assessment) while the physical activity needs have been
considered in the workforce (Public
Health England, n.d). To do so, the training and
education needs of workers have been considered in an effort to deliver high-quality
physical activity interventions and advice. On the community level, local
initiatives bent to ‘Making Every Contact Count’ have included physical
activity, and community health professionals have been advised to develop links
with the providers of NHS Health Check in the locals (Public Health England, n.d).

Obesity

Obesity is a health condition where excess body fat has accumulated
to the extent that it has a negative effect on the individual’s health. Generally,
a person is considered obese when his or her body mass index (BMI) is 30 kg/m2
 (Waumsley, Atter, Boyle and
Buckroyd, 2011). Individuals whose BMI sits between 25 and 30 kg/m2
are considered overweight. The main symptoms associated with obesity is excessive
body fat, breathing disorders, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It
occurs when an individual consumes more calories than it is able to burn.
Previously, it was merely caused by under-exercising, and overeating, all of
which result from lack of self-control and willpower. Doctors view obesity as a
complex health issue which involves among other factors, social, behavioural,
environmental and genetic factors (Waumsley et al., 2011). Obesity as a health
issue is already considered a modern epidemic and its prevalence is very high. In
the United Kingdom alone, approximately one in four adults is obese and more
than half of the adult population is overweight (Wang et al., 2011). According
to a WHO 2014 study, about 28.1% of adults in the UK identified as clinically
obese while 62% of the adults were overweight. This was a considerable increase
compared to the two previous decades where about 53% identified as overweight
(Wijnhoven et al., 2014). Obesity also affects children, and according to the
Health Survey of England, 17% of children were identified as obese while 14%
more were classified as overweight.

Several risks are associated with obesity as a health
issue. An obese person risks the development of other life-threatening diseases
and complications. These risks include risk for breathing disorders like
chronic obstructive pulmonary, the risk of developing certain types of cancers
such as breast and uterine cancer for women and prostate and bowel cancer for
their male counterpart. Additional risks include the risk of heart diseases,
diabetes, depression, joint disease, gastroesophageal reflux and liver or
gallbladder disease among others.

Granted that obesity is majorly caused by individual
choices, government policies on the issue can be difficult to implement since
they may be seen to interfere with the people’s power of choice. In an effort
to help people make better choices by improving labelling of drinks and foods, the
government passed a policy to set up a consistent system of labelling edibles
that combine red, green, amber colour-coding and visible nutritional
information to indicate the amount of salt, sugar, saturated fat, calories and
fat are in the products (Department of Health, 2013). In addition, the
government of UK has been party to implementing several interventions. Seeking
to help people make better choices, the government, through the department of
health, gives people advice on physical activity and healthy diets through its
Change4Life programme and encouraging businesses to include dietary information
on their menus (Department of Health, 2015).

In
summary, health and lifestyle issues stand as public health problems and are
mostly brought about by an imbalance between dietary intake, physical exercise
and the environment to which individuals are exposed. They are also caused by
the behavioural and social aspect that affect health including poor diets, and
drug taking. Health and lifestyle issues such as CVD, cancer, physical
activity, and obesity form a collection of some of the most prevalent diseases
in the United Kingdom and the world at large. Controlling the prevalence has
proven to be a difficult task since it involves interfering with people’s right
and freedom to choose. It is, however, commendable that the government is,
through the Department of Health, engaging in interventions that seek to ensure
that people make the right choices that do not put them at risk for diseases
and infections.