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China is the world’s most populous country, which has about one-fifth of the world’s population. Since the early 1950s, total life expectancy in China has grown more than 2 times. However, some global processes, such as globalization, urbanization, and cultural interaction, have led to the popularization of the Western lifestyle in China. This circumstance, along with bad habits, which are widespread in this country, has resulted in an alarming situation. Nowadays, China is facing health problems, which are the same as in higher-income countries, such as the UK and the USA. That is why it is essential to analyze the prevalent lifestyle choices and diseases in China, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and diseases caused by smoking.
Causes of Diabetes (Types 1 and 2)
Type 1 diabetes is commonly characterized by deficient insulin production, and its exact cause is unknown. Type 2 diabetes develops when “the body uses insulin ineffectively” (Wu, 2016, para. 3). This type is the most widespread in the world, and it is the result of overweight and lack of physical activity. A comprehensive study found that “about 110 million people in China have diabetes of types 1 and 2” (Wu, 2016, para. 1). Thus, one in nine Chinese adults has diabetes, and 30 percent of diabetics around the world are Chinese. Furthermore, about 1 million people die in China every year because of diabetes (Wu, 2016). The most concerning fact are that nearly 40% of these deaths are among people below the age of 70 (Wu, 2016).
Doctors say that such an active growth in the indicators of this disease appeared because of poor nutrition. To be more precise, Western eating habits, such as fast food, containing much cholesterol, have become popular in China. Another factor that leads to the development of diabetes is excessive consumption of sweet foods in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle. According to statistics, currently, in China, more than 30% of adult citizens are overweight (Chen et al., 2016, 4).
More than that, Chinese children are at risk of developing diabetes because of unhealthy lifestyles. Statistics show that “more than 4 in 5 adolescents 11-17 years do not get enough physical activity” (Wu, 2016, para. 7). Therefore, rates of overweight and obesity among children are increasing sharply: from less than 3% in 1985 to around 10% among girls and 20% among boys in 2010 (Chen et al., 2016). That is why this problem is one of the most challenging for China and requires taking urgent measures.
The Problem of High Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Diseases
Another serious health problem in China is high blood pressure. The research revealed that nearly half of the Chinese between 35 and 75 suffer from hypertension (Du, Patel, Anderson, Dong, & Ma, 2019). This situation is a cause of concern because of the fact that high blood pressure significantly increases the risk of stroke, which is now the leading cause of death in China. More than that, high blood pressure leads to other cardiovascular diseases, such as myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, and heart failure.
The main reasons for the increased number of Chinese citizens suffering from hypertension and cardiovascular diseases are practically the same as for diabetes – dietary changes and overweight (Du et al., 2019). The Kadoorie Biobank study shows that “two-thirds of major coronary events and two-fifths of acute ischemic stroke could potentially be avoided by adhering to a healthy lifestyle” (Lv et al., 2017, p. 1124).
However, as China experiences societal shifts due to greater industrialization and urbanization, it contributes to the transition of many Chinese people to the middle class. Therefore, they spend a considerable part of the increased disposable income on processed and unhealthy Western foods.
The Problem of Smoking in China
China is known as one of the world’s largest consumers and producer of tobacco, and the industry provides the government with colossal sums. Therefore, the Chinese can be called one of the most smoking nations. Statistics show that smoking is most frequent among men aged 35–64 years and among women 65 years of age or older (Wang et al., 2016). Wang et al. (2016) state that “in China, 52.1% of males smoke, more than half of whom say they have never tried to quit” (p. 7). Statistics show that over 1 million people die every year in China from cancer, lung disease, and other diseases caused by smoking (Wang et al., 2016).
If these trends continue, some researchers claim that by 2030, more than three million Chinese will die from smoking each year. Chinese smokers are three times more likely to get lung cancer than non-smokers are, and twice as likely to get tuberculosis. Other types of cancers, such as the oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, and pancreas, are also associated with smoking.
Smoking has also been recognized as the most important causative factor in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The dose-response relationship between cigarette exposure and COPD has been demonstrated both in China and throughout the rest of the world. More than that, this bad habit also increases the risk of different cardiovascular diseases in China.
Nowadays, China has reached a health tipping point because diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles and bad habits pose a significant threat to Chinese people. In other words, rapid urbanization, the popularization of fast food, lack of physical activity, and an increased number of smokers are becoming the most crucial challenges, which China has ever faced. That is why it is vital to study this issue further to find appropriate solutions to these problems.
Chen, W., Gao, R., Liu, L., Zhu, M., Wang, W., Wang, Y.,… Hu, S. (2017). China cardiovascular diseases report 2015: A summary. Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, 14, 1-10. Web.
Du, X., Patel, A., Anderson, C. S., Dong, J., & Ma, C. (2019). Epidemiology of cardiovascular disease in China and opportunities for improvement. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 73(24), 3135–3147. Web.
Lv, J., Yu, C., Guo, Y., Bian, Z., Yang, L., Chen, Y.,… Li, L. (2017). Adherence to healthy lifestyle and cardiovascular diseases in the Chinese population. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 69, 1116–25.
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Wang, Y., Qi, F., Jia, X., Lin, P., Liu, H., Geng, M.,… Tan, J. (2016). Mortality and burden of disease attributable to cigarette smoking in Qingdao, China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(9), 1-9. Web.
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