The full A-Z of Health

You may have noticed that each day for the last 26 days I have posted a daily blog titled the A-Z of Health – the aim of this was to show how food and lifestyle choices impact on health in a HUGE way.  As a Nutritional Therapist I find that food is abused, misunderstood and largely neglected

The point I want to get over is – what you eat and how you live your life now will determine your health in the future.

How so? There isn’t actually a way that food doesn’t impact.  Consider the food you eat impacts on every cell in your body, every movement, every decision, every emotion.  What fuels the movements, decisions and emotions is the type of food you eat.  Is it helping or is it harming?

I found it surprisingly easy to compile the A-Z there’s a lot of nutritional links to disease, some may have surprised you.  Here’s a very quick summary of some of the main links and statistics.

A – Autism – nutrition can help or hinder the bodies response to stress and anxiety.  There are many nutrients linked to relaxation and a big link with Essential Fatty Acids – read blog post A for the full information and you can purchase my webinar on the nutritional links with Autism here.

B – Blood Pressure – not surprising this would feature, there was actually a few contenders for B, but blood pressure is still largely undiagnosed and silent so I wanted to raise awareness of how dangerous it can be!

Over 5 million people are unaware they have high blood pressure yet it affects more than 1 in 4 adults and is one of the biggest risk factors for premature death and disability in England

High blood pressure, which can often be prevented or controlled through lifestyle changes, accounts for 12% of all visits to GPs in England.

Public Health England

C – Cancer – The one word that still scares everyone. People seem to have become accustomed to hearing obesity and type 2 diabetes despite their obvious health risks but Cancer, this is the one everyone is scared of. But what are we doing about it?

One thing that I always think of is future health – that includes this generation of children and what is in store for them as adults.  There’s startling new research about just how much of a link there is between diet, lifestyle and cancer with obesity now being the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

Consider the prediction that by 2030 half (yes 50%) of the total UK population will be obese and that obesity causes cancer.

Does obesity cause cancer?


Overweight and obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK- more than 1 in 20 cancer cases are caused by excess weight

The risk is higher the more weight a person gains and the longer they are overweight for

The good news is small changes that are kept up over time can make a real difference”

Cancer Research Uk

I could write for days on obesity – there’s more on this in O, but the nutritional link with cancer doesn’t end with obesity.

When I talk about eating for immunity I talk a lot about the role of free radicals and antioxidants given that many of the population (adults and children alike) are malnourished we are likely to be lacking in the bodies natural defence mechanisms and with anything, our immune system is our first like of defence against cancer.  See M for Malnourishment.

Going back to the link with children – the ‘risk is higher the longer they are overweight for’ – it is estimated that if a child is obese, they are significantly more likely to become an obese adult.

D – Dementia – under dementia I refer specifically to Alzheimer’s which is the most common form of dementia.  How is nutrition linked to the development of Alzheimer’s?

There is a new proposed term for Alzheimer’s – Type 3 Diabetes after scientific studies have pinpointed that metabolic disorders but should not be disregarded with neurological disorders.         

People that have insulin resistance, in particular those with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease estimated to be between 50% and 65% higher.

Diabetes UK

There are further nutritional and lifestyle considerations including some startling evidence around the decline in the cognitive function of children and how a poor diet can lead to inflammation and neurodegeneration in the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, two major parts of the brain responsible for memory. 

When it comes to this generation of children, they may well experience an accelerated cognitive decline usually seen around the age of 70-80 by the ages of 50-60.

I have said it before, children are not exempt from adult diseases we just do not expect to see it!

One link that seemed to spark a lot of attention during my posts was the significant increased risk of developing dementia if you have Type 2 Diabetes (50-60%) more likely.  See blog post T and my webinar on Type 2 Prevention

E – Emotional Eating – I wanted to get this in despite it not counting as a stand-alone medical condition, as you will see if you read my A-Z posts many issues with nutrition are not just to do with the foods you eat but the more the reasons why you eat them. 

Emotional eating never cures emotional problems, not once.  It does however create a whole host of physical problems, many of which you will see in my A-Z health posts.

As you should know by now, I am very anti-diet.  You cannot change eating habits by trying just to change eating habits.  What you eat and why you eat starts in the mind.  This is where I start to work with clients to make sure they get results.

F – Fatigue  There’s more to fatigue than simply being tired.  Tired of feeling tired?

Poor nutrition is a leading contributor to the fatigue epidemic faced as a result of modern living and a western diet but why?

Food provides energy, right? So, if we eat enough then we shouldn’t feel tired, we should have enough energy?  Find out why this might not be the case by reading the full blog.

GORD (Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease) – I had to get a digestion disorder into the A-Z and this is one of the more common ones which can be very uncomfortable and unsettling as it causes a burning sensation near the heart.  There’s many nutritional and lifestyle influences – read the full blog under G.

H – Heart Disease – a big one for me to include and the figures should speak for themselves:

Each day in the UK:

  • 420 people will lose their life to CVD
  • More than 110 will be younger than 75
  • 540 hospital visits due to a heart attack
  • 7m people are living with CVD
  • 180 people will die from coronary heart disease
  • 25% of all UK deaths are caused by heart and circulatory diseases
  • The total annual healthcare cost of heart and circulatory disease is 9billion

Scary? Should be but doesn’t seem to be.  As I have said Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes have become ‘normalised’.  People no longer seem scared of this or to act upon warning signs, the same could be said for looking after our heart health.

My purpose with these A-Z posts is to highlight where there are any preventable factors and how we can influence our health.  To read the full information for your own future health read blog post H.

I  – Infertility  You may be surprised to see I have picked infertility but I am not.  I often mention the western diet and the impact on our overall health. Fertility is no different

Sperm counts in the West plunge by 60% in 40 years as ‘modern life’ damages men’s health

When it comes to nutrition it is often what we eat and what is missing from our diet that causes the issues.  As I have said throughout my A-Z of health blog posts a western diet typically is calorie dense but nutrient poor.  Consider the future implications of a poor diet amongst the children of today and their fertility in the future.

Future health is created in the present.

J – Joint pain  As with many aspects of these A-Z posts I often find that many symptoms, even entire diseases are caused by a western diet and that in other cultures there’s sometimes not even a word for something very common in the west.

Why is this? What on earth are we eating that is causing so many lifestyle (yet serious) diseases and either creating or worsening the symptoms of so many other diseases? Read blog J for more information but here’s some statistics once again linking obesity.

There is a real concern that unless rocketing rates of obesity are tackled, the numbers of people needing joint replacement surgery would soar, which would have a considerable impact on the NHS.

Professor Silman

K – Kidney Disease  – can’t always be prevented but the danger of it is that it often has no symptoms so can go undetected for some time.

Once again, the primary risk factors linked to prevention appear to be the same culprits – obesity and diabetes along with high blood pressure and smoking

There is never usually just one health condition, health is a balancing act everything is linked when one thing goes wrong someone else is likely to follow it is just a matter of how long it will take.

Food doesn’t have to be complicated – talk to me, I make it make sense!

L – Long term stress – stress is a normal bodily reaction to a situation. Physical causes of stress are dealt with quickly by the body but emotional triggers cause the stress hormones to remain in the body over a sustained period of time. 

This is where we generally have a problem!  We don’t actually have that many external physical stresses; we are no longer likely to encounter a wild beast whilst out getting food, we don’t have to cross difficult and dangerous landscapes where we are likely to fall off a mountain.  We are lucky not to live in a war zone and in a country of reasonable security and stability so why are we so stressed?

There are many reasons all of which are discussed in the blog for L.  This is an important one.  Stress is referred to as the silent killer or sometimes the disease without a face.  I consider it to have many faces you just need to know what you’re looking for.

M – Malnourishment  maybe a word you are surprised to see as it is historically associated with starvation and people in far-away lands not here with the UK.

The World Health Organisation has redefined what the world thinks of as being malnourished”.  Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition – that’s anyone who isn’t adequately nourished, not people who are actually starving.

N – Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) -as with many of these A-Z posts there is a common list of culprits with the biggest risk factors for NAFLD being: –

  • Are you overweight or obese?
  • Do you have Type 2 Diabetes?
  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?
  • Do you have metabolic syndrome (a combination of the above)?
  • Are you over 50?
  • Are you a smoker?

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 3 people in the UK could have early stages of NAFLD.

Read blog post N for more information

O – Obesity I could literally talk for days on this.  It’s ok to say obesity.  I am not fat shaming.  Obesity is a complex medical condition and I treat it as such.  Believe it or not it is not all to do with the food you eat, it is much more to do with your mind, your emotional response and triggers to food.

  • Obesity is not greed or laziness
  • Obesity is a serious health issue with a host of co-morbidities (or as I call them disease friends)

Obesity is normalised within society but this doesn’t make the serious nature of the disease disappear it just increases the number of people who will experience health problems.

Your obesity can affect future generations and decrease life expectancy.  It is also an extremely misunderstood and complex disease.

50% of the UK will be classified as obese by 2030 & Obesity is the second leading preventable cause of cancer

NHS & Cancer Research

In my book and in a recent blog post I discuss the epigenetic link of obesity – the predictions for the future health of overweight and obese children and the fact that without talking about it as a medical condition this problem is a health time bomb. Children are not exempt from adult diseases, sad but true, they can get Type 2 Diabetes, they can have joint issues, they can have increased CVD risks and in their future obesity increases their chances of Dementia.

Read the full blog on Obesity under O.

P – Prostate Cancer  Good food can either support or hinder our immune system.  Our immune system is our first line of defence against internal and external damage. When it comes to cancer there are many (many) complex variations but we know for a fact that obesity is a contributory cause of cancer when it comes to prostate cancer the link is in the blog

Let’s look at some other statistics: –

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK
  • Approx. 1 in 8 men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer
    • Risk factors include age, family history and black men (the statistics for black men are 1 in 4 – it is unknown why but research is ongoing looking into genes)
    • Remember the weight link? If you are overweight or obese you are at an increased risk

Q- Quit Smoking – I hold my hands up, I could not think of a single Q related health condition that would fit the A-Z of Health so I used it as an opportunity to highlight what could be the biggest health improvement anyone can make and that is to Quit Smoking!

I know that everyone who smokes knows the risks (it’s hard not to) and that they are nasty things but just to reiterate here’s some facts from the NHS: –

  • Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK
  • Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health conditions.
  • Smoking causes cancer (7 out of 10 cases of lung cancer and is linked to many other cancers including mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, bladder, bowel, cervix, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas)

Not only that

If you’re a smoker, stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to protect the health of your heart – Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked.

British Heart Foundation

How does nutrition feature?

Read the full information in the blog but in simple terms smoking as an anti-nutrient

  1. It causes the damage in the first place
  2. It prevents the body from protecting against the damage (anti-nutrient)

R – Rickets  You would be forgiven for thinking that this is a Dickensian disease the likes of which we no longer see but sadly you would be mistaken.  Although numbers are small, there is a definite increase in cases of rickets in recent years.

How on earth is this making a comeback?

Read the blog for full information!

S – Scurvy – Another one that should be left in the medical archives, one that we link to Sailors in the 18th century when scurvy was rife in fact at that time, scurvy killed more British sailors than enemy action.   Unfortunately, though scurvy is on the rise thanks in part to a western diet (see M – Malnourishment and R – Rickets).

The NHS data for 2017/18 shows nine admissions for children aged nine and under who needed treatment for scurvy, up from four the year before.

Yes, the numbers are small but they shouldn’t be there at all

The posts on R – Rickets and S – Scurvy should act as a reminder that although time has moved on, poor diet can still be a cause of some serious illnesses, with these two in particular dietary improvements should have eliminated them to the archives.

T – Type 2 Diabetes If ever there was one of my A-Z posts where there was a direct link with the food that we eat it’s this one! Although people know this somehow the facts don’t seem to be sinking in. I still see pre-diabetics eating cake and processed foods.  I want people to understand just how serious a condition Type 2 Diabetes is and their role in prevention.

I could write several pages on the co-morbidities (disease friends) of Type 2 Diabetes and the scary statistics that surround it – it’s all in the full blog.

  • More than 135 amputations resulting from diabetes are carried out every week in the UK.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of preventable sight loss in the UK.
  • 50-60% increased risk of developing Dementia
  • Every week diabetes causes 530 heart attacks and 680 strokes in the UK
  • People with diabetes are five times more likely to need either kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant

I am qualified in supporting people reversing this and giving themselves and their family the best future health they can influence. Click here to purchase my webinar

Talk to me about my preventative nutrition coaching for Type 2 Diabetes

U – Underweight The focus here is on the dangers of being underweight, of extreme dieting and an obsession with exercise.  This is often more to do with the neurological relationship with food – control, power, obsession.  What does this all do to physical and mental health and well-being?

Read the blog to find out more

V – Vascular disease – By vascular disease I am referring to Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

Peripheral Arterial Disease is very common and is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries which then restricts the blood supply to the leg muscles, you may not notice this as often there are no symptoms and the condition builds up very gradually over time.  If you get painful aching legs when you walk this could be a sign of PAD.

The nutritional and lifestyle links are explained in the full blog.

Please don’t assume that peripheral arterial disease isn’t serious because of the lack of symptoms and generic advice, consider the blockages going one way (legs) could also go another way (brain or heart).  You are at increased risk of both a stroke and heart attack if you have PAD.

In very severe cases of PAD amputation may be required if you develop Critical limb ischaemia where the blood flow to the leg is severely restricted.

W – Weak Bones – Many adults are not getting the nutrients they need for strong bone health.

For women the term Osteoporosis is often associated with old age and it is true there is a link with age as the menopause has a huge impact but people of any age can develop osteoporosis and there are of course nutritional and lifestyle links!

Click the blog to read more

X – X Ray – I wanted to get tooth decay in to the A-Z but hadn’t found a way so this will have to do! An X -Ray can identify tooth decay there you go – link sorted!!

In recent years we have seen a significant increase in tooth decay in milk teeth. Milk teeth.  Generally, milk teeth relate to the under 7’s.  But all children have seen a rise in decay, hospital admissions even full removal of whole sets of teeth!

Read the X blog to find out more.

Y – Years removed from life – A bit tenuous yes but you try coming up with a health condition relating to nutrition that starts with  Y

Public Health England confirms there has been a fall in life expectancy.

By the time something goes wrong, it’s likely something else might be going wrong too because diseases and health conditions come with co-morbidities and one of the most common factors that has come up throughout the A-Z posts is obesity.  As a stand-alone condition obesity has its’ own issues but generally it has some friends it likes to hang out with;

On its’ own obesity is classified under the World Health Organisation as;

Obesity is a chronic progressive disease resulting from multiple environmental and genetic factors

According to the NHS

  • Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of 3 to 10 years, depending on how severe it is.
  • It’s estimated that obesity and being overweight contribute to at least 1 in every 13 deaths in Europe.
  • I like to link back to children’s health and the future health predictions that are in store for them, this should get people taking action:

It is expected and accepted amongst many scientists and health professionals that this generation will not live as long as the one before it due to lifestyle choices and the associated diseases.

Do we want to accept a shorter life expectancy for our children and a future filled with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, along with decreased mental health, joint pain, stress and fatigue or do we want to lead by example and change the predictions to shape their future health for the better?

Z – Zonked out  Yes, another tenuous link for the letter Z. By zonked out I am referring to the long-term side effects of oxidative stress on the body and what often happens when people ignore the subtle warning signs of their body trying to tell them to slow down!

If you listen to your body when it whispers you will never have to listen to it scream read blog post Z for the full information.

About the author of this blog

Louise Mercieca is a multi award-winning author on children’s nutrition with her book ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ winning the Parenting award in Janey Lee Grace’s Platinum awards.  Louise is the host of Early Years TV Food Channel – a channel dedicated to children’s health and nutrition.

Louise has also won a SBS or Small Business Sunday award from Theo Paphitis and was recently crowned as Queen of Child Nutrition in the #Queenof Twitter awards.

Louise took the A-Z of Health onto BBC Radio Leicester

Louise has worked as a Nutritional Therapist for 8 years supporting hundreds of clients and does take on a limited number of personal coaching clients each month – contact Louise to discuss this. Louise has also created an accessible and affordable webinar schedule covering many topics discussed in this A-Z post series.

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