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Lack of exercise, poor diet and stress taking toll on Canadians' health, UBC study finds

Bad diets, a lack of exercise and too much stress are hitting the health of Canadians, a new UBC study has found.

Researchers from the school’s Faculty of Medicine investigated the links between unhealthy lifestyles and three diseases — stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

“Inactivity, poor diet and more than optimal amounts of stress combined with an aging population are resulting in increasing numbers of Canadians with cardiometabolic conditions, and thus increasing their risk of poor health,” Brodie Sakakibara, an assistant professor based at UBC Okanagan, said.

The three diseases at the centre of the study are the leading causes of death and hospital use in Canada.

<who> Photo credit: File

Among the findings in the study was a link between cardiometabolic multimorbidity (being diagnosed with at least two of the three diseases) and unhealthy lifestyles.

“We found that people with all three diseases had four times the chance of reporting zero minutes of physical activity per week than people with none of the conditions,” said Sakakibara.

“And similarly, they had four times the chance of reporting high levels of stress.

“These lifestyle behaviours are clearly associated with bad or even dangerous health outcomes.”

But a problem with treatment is that patients with multiple diseases are given care focused on just one of their ailments, Sakakibara added.

“Often most patients with multiple chronic conditions develop complications that are clinically complex and become unique healthcare challenges,” said Janice Eng, who works at UBC's department of physical therapy

“These complexities are often poorly understood, which means these patients have unmet health care needs.”

But Sakakibara warned that upping activity, lowering stress and eating well won’t cure all problems.

“Lifestyle behaviour modification is an important strategy for the management and prevention of future heart or stroke events,” he said.

“Physical activity several times a week, combined with a healthier diet, can manage risk and complications, while at the same time helping to lower stress.”

This study, partially funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Michael Smith Foundation, was published recently in BMC Public Health.

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