top of page

Chronic Illness: Why You Should Care & How to Avoid It

Updated: Mar 28

Old couple sitting on a bench gazing at a beautiful view
Photo by Matt Bennett on Unsplash

You and most people you know will most probably die from a chronic disease.

As a crappy bonus, you will suffer a slow and agonising decline for several years before you die. It will be painful, sad, and lonely.

This is not fear-peddling. It’s statistics.

It doesn’t have to be that way! You can escape your current fate. You can have a life full of vitality and good health, but you need to act now. It’s in your hands.

As a Nutritional Therapist, I have come across too many people who don’t see the long-term consequences of their daily actions. People who don’t think about their health past a year in advance. People who don’t realise that even though they will live to 80, they will spend the last 20 years with crippling illness [0].

In today’s post, I’m looking at the causes of chronic illness and how you can escape being a part of the bleak statistics. It’s not an extensive guide to solve all your problems. However, it will show you where you're heading and give you some tools to change course.

Are you at risk?

Chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease, and type-2 diabetes kill 41 million people each year [1]. That’s the population of Spain. In 2019, 88.8% of deaths in England were from chronic disease [2]. This means that most people reading this article will die from chronic illness. You included.

I suspect that many of you will recognise the risk factors:

·      Unhealthy diet

·      Tobacco use

·      Physical inactivity

·      Harmful use of alcohol

It's important to realise that chronic illnesses are largely preventable once you address these risk factors.

They are also known as modifiable lifestyle-related factors because YOU have the power to change them. You can and should quit smoking. You can quit drinking alcohol or greatly decrease how much you drink. You can move more. And you can certainly improve your diet.

Out of all chronic illnesses, cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills the most people. In 2019, cardiovascular disease accounted for almost 1 in 4 deaths in England. It is also the disease most linked to an unhealthy diet [3].

The major cause of CVD is simple - poor diet coupled with a lack of exercise increases metabolic risk factors such as:

·      raised blood pressure,

·      overweight/obesity,

·      elevated blood lipids and;

·      increased blood glucose.

All these greatly increase the risk of CVD, as well as other conditions such as type-2 diabetes. Your risk increases with every additional risk factor.


(Not) A Fun Fact: According to WHO 1.8 million annual deaths are attributed to excess salt/sodium intake each year. 


You are likely living with at least one of these metabolic risk factors right now.

It’s not your fault if you are. The rise in chronic disease worldwide is linked to our diets containing increasing quantities of ultra-processed food [4]. Processing usually leads to foods containing high saturated fats, refined grains, salt, and sugar. 

Cancer is another chronic disease associated with diet. 13 types of cancer including breast cancer in postmenopausal women and colorectal cancer have strong links with diet.

While it’s not your fault, knowing the above information now makes you accountable for your health and well-being. It also should make you feel accountable for the health and well-being of your children and close family members.

If you’re not yet convinced that you should make a change, let’s explore what happens once you develop a chronic disease.

What are the personal costs of living with a chronic disease?

Living with chronic disease will impose various personal costs on you. It’s likely to affect your physical, emotional, social, and financial well-being for the years you are living with the disease.

Some of the major personal costs are:

Physical Limitations: Chronic illnesses often cause physical symptoms and limitations that can affect daily functioning and quality of life. Chronic illness can make you feel tired, hurt, or have trouble moving around. It can be hard to do everyday things like playing sports, going for walks or carrying the groceries.

Feeling Sad or Stressed: Dealing with a chronic illness can make you feel sad, worried, or alone.

Not Doing What You Love: Chronic illness might stop you from doing things you enjoy, like working, doing hobbies, or spending time with family.

Money Troubles: Chronic illness can cost a lot of money. You might need to see doctors, buy medicine, or make changes to your lifestyle, which can be expensive.

Changes in Relationships: Having a chronic illness can change how you interact with friends and family. You might need help with everyday tasks or feel like you can't do things on your own anymore. This can sometimes cause tension or problems in relationships.

Loss of Independence: Some chronic illnesses might make you rely more on others for help with everyday stuff, like getting around or making decisions. 

Early Death: This is not a small cost. Think of all the life experiences that you will miss.

Do you still need convincing?

If you're looking for a sign, let this be it!

The costs of living in poor health are huge. It doesn’t only affect the rest of your life; it also affects your family and friends. People believe that they will somehow dodge the statistics. Yet they do everything that makes them the statistic.

Most humans are risk-averse, so I have never understood why people gamble with their health. If you are living in England there is an 88.8% chance that you will develop a chronic disease. If I gave you those odds of jumping out of a plane, would you take the risk knowing that you have an 88.8% chance of not surviving?

I assume not, so why do you leap when it comes to health?

It’s not only you. We have to wake up as a society.

We smoke, even though tobacco accounts for over 8 million deaths every year.  That’s everyone in London.

We drink, even though 3 million annual deaths are because of alcohol use. That’s all of Wales.

We eat ultra-processed junk food, even though 28 million people (half of England) die of diet-related chronic diseases every year.

Here's what you can do now

What you do now is not complicated. If you live in the UK, the government dietary guidelines known as the Eatwell Guide are good. I promise. This is coming from a Nutritional Therapist who is taught to be sceptical about general nutrition guidance.

The problem with the Eatwell Guide is that most people don’t follow it. If they did, they wouldn’t be at risk of chronic illness.

You can find more information on the Eatwell Guide on the NHS website (

Here is what the Eatwell Guide recommends in a nutshell:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables a day.

  • Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates.

    • Choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta and brown rice.

  • Eat beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein-rich foods.

    • Choose lean cuts of meat and mince, and eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.

    • Aim for at least 2 portions (2 x 140g) of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.

  • Have some dairy.

  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts.

  • Eat foods high in fat, salt and sugar less often and in small amounts.

  • Drink plenty of fluids – 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day is enough.

If you are healthy

If you are a relatively healthy individual with no chronic illness or existing metabolic risk factors, then following the Eatwell Guide is a good place to start. Given you already don’t smoke, abuse alcohol, and stay active, you will decrease your chances of chronic illness even more.

If you are NOT healthy    

Living with a chronic condition or metabolic risk factors shouldn’t stop you from eating healthier. It should motivate you. Talk to your doctor and start following the Eatwell Guide. 

You will also benefit from seeing a nutrition healthcare professional. They can design a nutrition plan tailored to your needs. 

Most diseases caused by poor nutrition can be reversed with good nutrition. Seeing a nutrition professional is one of the best health investments you can make.      

Click the button below to book a free 30-minute consultation.

More things you can do

While the Eatwell Guide is good, there are three other things you should consider doing to help your health further:

  • Eliminate most ultra-processed food from your diet.

    • Eating ultra-processed food increases the risk of obesity, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, and diabetes [5].

  • Eat enough fibre. Men should get 30g and women 25g of fibre per day.

    • A high-fibre diet can improve blood sugar control, and reduce cholesterol, body weight and inflammation [6].

  • Educate yourself about nutrition and healthy eating.

    • Self-efficacy is one of the most important factors in staying healthy. Follow evidence-based Nutritional Therapists like me (@healthiersapiens) or invest in a consultation and a tailor-made nutrition plan by clicking on "Book Now" button above.

I've created a 5 step guide to exponentially reduce your risk of chronic illness. Join my mailing list below to get the guide.

I hope this blog post is helpful. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.



Subscribe to get access to more health blogs

Click here to download the guide

bottom of page