Chronic diseases and health promotion

Overview - Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment

Half-truth #2

Another set of misunderstandings arises from kernels of truth. In these cases, the kernels of truth are distorted to become sweeping statements that are not true. Because they are based on the truth, such half-truths are among the most ubiquitous and persistent misunderstandings. Two principal half-truths are refuted in this section.

HALF-TRUTH #2: “My grandfather smoked and was overweight – and he lived to 96”

In any population, there will be a certain number of people who do not demonstrate the typical patterns seen in the vast majority. For chronic diseases, there are two major types:

  • people with many chronic disease risk factors, who nonetheless live a healthy and long life;
  • people with no or few chronic disease risk factors, who nonetheless develop chronic disease and/or die from complications at a young age.

These people undeniably exist, but they are rare. The vast majority of chronic disease can be traced back to the common risk factors, and can be prevented by eliminating these risks.