6 Lifestyle Factors and How they Impact Our Health

Updated: 2 days ago

Introduction | 6 Lifestyle Factors | #1: Smoking | #2: Alcohol | #3: Sleep | #4: Stress | #5: Exercise | #6: Diet & Nutrition

an image of items relating to the lifestyle factors: running trainers, skipping rope, dumbbells and health food

The aim of this article is to provide you with an opportunity to complete a health and lifestyle questionnaire. By reading through and honestly answering the questions, and comparing the answers to the ‘health professional’s analysis, you will be able to identify areas of your lifestyle that (might) need improving.

So this is how the Lifestyle Analysis should work

Read through the questionnaire ensuring to answer each question as honestly and accurately as possible.


How this would normally work, say, between a health professional and their client, is, after the client has completed the questionnaire, the health professional would read it over making recommendations and suggestions.


The health professional would identify areas in the client’s lifestyle that could compromise their health and increase the risk of illness and disease. Not only would they identify pernicious lifestyle habits but also order them in a list of prioritised importance. That is, which lifestyle habit poses the greatest risk to health and ought to be tackled first.


If the health professional is worth their salt they would sit with the client and verbally walk them through their analysis.


Because we cannot, for obvious reasons, conduct this process in the manner described above, I have instead analysed the questionnaire based on how the ‘average’ (that is statistical average) person would answer the questions.


In addition, for those lifestyle questions that the average person would posit a positive answer – for example: Do you smoke? To which the average person would answer No – I have still explained how this lifestyle factor could negatively impact health. Why?


For the simple reason that I want this lifestyle analysis to be as inclusive as possible. And of course, statistically speaking, it stands to reason that, if enough people do conduct this questionnaire, one will inevitably be a smoker.


However, if you were to come across a question which you could answer positively – such as: Do you smoke? Yes/No . . . No – you would simply dismiss my analysis and proceed to the next question.


In a bid to facilitate user participation and make the process run more smoothly, I have indicated at the end of each question whether or not, based on your answer, you should read the accompanying analysis.

A quick word on the lifestyle questions

In my discussion of each lifestyle question, I have remained both broad and brief. The reason for this is twofold.


1) A comprehensive outline of but one lifestyle factor would require an extensive investigation which would easily consume thousands of words. I have purposely avoided this so as to better cater to the contemporary palate.


2) When analyzing a client’s diet I would normally pick it apart and, on slipping on my nutritionist specs, scrutinize every edible, meal, and morsel.


This approach, for a general lifestyle analysis, is of course not feasible. Thus the onus is on the reader to compare and contrast the lifestyle factors discussed to their own.


Also, I would advise the reader to further explore those lifestyle factors that were identified as needing improvement. A suggested reading list accompanies each factor.


Ok, I’ll shut up now. It’s over to you to complete the questionnaire. Just remember one thing: be honest!



Lifestyle Factor #1: Smoking

a man snapping a cigarette in half - this image is showing the importance of stopping smoking as part of a move towards a healthier lifestyle.

Do you smoke? Yes / No: Yes (if you answered Yes please read the analysis)


According to the NHS (2020) ‘Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in England, accounting for nearly 80,000 deaths each year. One in two smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.’


There’s more: ‘Every 15 cigarettes you smoke will cause a mutation in your body, mutations are how cancers start' (NHS - Smoke-Free).


By reducing your consumption of cigarettes, and eventually quitting, of course, you will significantly reduce your susceptibility to the plethora of smoking-related diseases.


Diseases associated with smoking

9 of the 10 known lung cancers
Cancer of the: mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, digestive tract and brain
Stroke
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Hypertension – high blood pressure
Heart disease
Osteoporosis

Smoking has also been shown to adversely impact infertility and reproduction – men who smoke tend to have lower sperm counts – and blood circulation – men who smoke tend to experience fewer erections.


As a consequence of the toxic gunk that accumulates and coagulates in the body, which eventually finds its way to the circulatory system, the blood of a smoker is not only comparatively thicker than that of a non-smoker but also carries less oxygen. This is bad for a number of reasons. But the two most prominent are:

1: Thicker blood which increases your chances of clot formation
2: Increases your blood pressure and heart rate, making your heart work harder than normal

If, as a smoker, you are left unmoved after learning of these dire facts, findings and figures, you are clearly unreachable. Why you would so willingly subject your body to such disgusting pollution and poison and expose your health to so great a risk I could never understand. You are a psychological enigma.


However, now that you are informed, if ever you do succumb to one of the aforementioned diseases/conditions – and statistics indicate that you stand a very high chance – at least you won’t be able to say: But I didn’t know smoking was so bad for my health. Thus, when the time comes, ensure that you fall on your sword with dignity . . . and be so good as to give up your medical care to someone more deserving of it.


(On the bright side, until you do decide to dispense with the disease inflictors you’ll be contributing to the coffers of the tobacco barons, the government, and keeping many a health psychologist in pay. On their behalf: Thank You!)


If, as a smoker, you feel somewhat unnerved by the myriad ways smoking could shorten your life, and the prospect of dying 15 years prematurely keeps you up at night, as it rightly should, TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY!


Nowadays there is so much help available for people who want to quit the cancer sticks. You’ve just got to be bothered to seek out those support groups and use them.


To unburden you of one of the many barriers that are no doubt prohibiting you from taking action, I have included a number of links to smoking support groups. Start your journey to a healthier life today!


The following link will take you to the NHS’s Personal Quit Plan
Quit.org is charity dedicated to helping people QUIT!
Smokefree.gov is a governmental initiative to help people QUIT!
And then there’s Ash.org, a public charity striving to help people improve their health by staying QUIT!

Further reading

Health Psychology: Theory, Research and Practice

by David F. Marks (Author), Michael Murray (Author), Emee Vida Estacio

This fully revised and updated Fifth Edition takes a critical approach and places health psychology in a real-world context, enabling students to understand how public policy, theory and research can influence communities and individuals alike.



Lifestyle Factor #2: Alcohol Consumption

An image depicting multiple bottles of alcohol. This is supposed to illustrate the importance of reducing or quitting drinking alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Do you consume alcohol? Yes / No: Yes (if you answered Yes please read the analysis – though not before first calculating the number of units you are consuming)


If Yes, how much alcohol do you consume during the week? (Unit conversion: one pint of low strength beer = 2 units – large glass of red wine = 3 units – single small shot 25ml of a 40% proof spirit = 1 unit)


I consume between 3 to 4 alcoholic beverages per week. My tipple is red wine and one drink constitutes a full glass. Going off the conversion chart I am probably consuming about 12 units each week.

The dangers of alcohol consumption

‘According to Government statistics, more than 1.4 million people are dependent on alcohol in the UK. 33,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related incidents or associated health problems,’ (Alcoholics Anonymous 2020).


Alcohol, in any quantity, is extremely pernicious to health. According to Dr Greger ‘moderate drinking does appear to protect against heart disease, perhaps because of a blood-thinning effect, but even light drinking (less than one drink a day) has been found to increase cancer risk,’ (How Not to Die ).


Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. ‘Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease,’ (WHO (2020)).


Furthermore, alcohol consumption is associated with fatty-liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and visceral/subcutaneous fat. Anyone who is serious about weight loss and health must look to reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.

Alcohol-related diseases

Cancer!
Cirrhosis of the liver ‘is scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by long-term liver damage.’ (NHS (2020))
Wet brain syndrome or ‘‘Wernicke’s encephalopathy’ is a condition that causes neurological symptoms as a result of biochemical lesions of the nervous system’ which can result in permanent damage to the brain leading to memory loss and impaired cognition (Dr Thomas (2020)).
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Stroke
Digestive problems: alcohol can impede the body from absorbing vital nutrients – such as thiamine (B1)
Alcohol can also damage your pancreas. If you drink too much, it can lead to acute (short-lasting) or chronic (long-lasting) pancreatitis (BUPA (2020))
Chronic Depression
Impaired reproductive capacity – alcohol consumption reduces sperm count

In light of these facts – and there are many more besides – it is best to reduce alcohol consumption to zero units per week. Over the course of the next couple of weeks aim to reduce the number of units consumed. Do not replace alcohol with a non-alcoholic alternative as they contain lots of sugar and you would merely be replacing one unhealthy beverage for another.

Below I have included a number of links to support groups. Access them today and kick this nasty habit.

Alcoholics Anonymous, in their own words, ‘is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength and hope with each other that they may sole their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.’ But the charity also provides advice on guidance on how to lower consumption and how to quit altogether.

The NHS provides a service that enables people to find support groups in their local area. Follow the link and get the support you need.

Alcohol Change is a charity dedicated to helping people find the right support for them.


Further Reading

Alcohol Explainedby William Porter

Alcohol Explained is the definitive, ground-breaking guide to alcohol and alcoholism. It explains how alcohol affects human beings on a chemical, physiological and psychological level, from those first drinks right up to chronic alcoholism. Alcoholism and problem drinking seems illogical to those on the outside, indeed it is equally perplexing for the alcoholic or problem drinker. This book provides a logical, easy-to-follow explanation of the phenomenon and detailed instructions on how to beat it.



Lifestyle Factor #3: Sleep

A cartoon image of a woman sleeping in a cloud. This picture is supposed to illustrate the importance of sleep as part of a healthy lifestyle.