All disease, both infectious and chronic, is driven by factors in our environment. As we have seen with infection, changes to water systems, brought a vast reduction in waterborne diseases such as cholera. So, changes in how we live as individuals can help us avoid, or even cure, chronic illness. All who keep fish know this as a truth.
A healthy animal, or human, lives, by definition, as close as possible to its evolutionary ideal environment. We eat the foods that we have evolved to do well on. We have the right amount of sleep. We have an optimal social environment.
Any animal that satisfies these evolved conditions is generally healthy. Good health is the natural state for most of the population.
In the last 50 years an epidemic of chronic illness has swept the world. It began in Europe and the US, but now affects the entire world and it affects those populations that have been least exposed to the “modern diet” (as defined by agriculture) even worse than those that have farmed for millenia.
In less than a century, our bodies have changed. This process accelerated in the late 1970’s when the official view of what is a healthy diet changed and we adopted highly processed food. The institution of healthcare has been unable to make any progress here.
Concurrently in this period the internet as a force has grown from nothing to being pervasive. This has increased the tempo of life and has put us on high alert to social pressures. A result is that social stress has increased dramatically.
Never have we as a species moved so far away from our evolved ideal lifestyle.
In this podcast, I will go deeper and show how, by understanding these issues, we can take action and so prevent, or even cure, these chronic illnesses.
This image tells the story of the power of our social environment.
This slide is based on a study of the British Civil Service by Sir Michael Marmot. The Whitehall Study shows the rates of mortality of Heart Disease in the civil service by rank in the hierarchy. The “Administrative” group are the few at the top. The Other are the many at the bottom. You are 4 times more likely to die of CHD at the bottom of the hierarchy than at the top.
Your position in the social hierarchy and how much control you think you have is a critical aspect of your health.
I will talk more about the social environment and its effect on our health in the next episode.