What Is Chronic Disease?

The World Health Organization defines chronic disease as those of long duration, generally of slow progression, that are not passed from person to person. The main types are:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • chronic respiratory disease (like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD and asthma)
  • diabetes

These are by far the leading cause of death in the world. There are three common theories about what causes chronic disease:

  • “Wear and Tear” — your behavior determines disease
  • “Bad Genes” — your parents’ genes determine your likelihood for disease
  • “Natural Aging” — disease is inevitable as we age

As scientists began to study the rates at which people suffer from disease and their correlations with conditions in the womb and during early life, a pattern appeared. Birth weight, which has been decreasing since 1990, can predict how likely you are to suffer from chronic disease. Low birthweight can in turn be associated with how a baby grows in the womb, where this “programming effect” starts and continues into early life.

We want to end chronic disease where it starts. Vulnerability to disease is due to poor growth early in life. Improving the quality of your diet can turn the tide against chronic disease.