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Apart from specific, easily identifiable pathogens such as bacteria or viruses which can cause disease, another major cause of disease is lifestyle. Lifestyle includes the choices that we make in regards to our food, drink, whether we smoke or use drugs, certain jobs we do, even the place where we live.
The way we can measure the impact of certain lifestyle choices is by knowing risk factors. Certain diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease are associated with certain risk factors, such as smoking and obesity. On the flip side, changes in lifestyle are also associated with a decrease in risk of contracting these diseases.
You should be able to analyse graphs showing specific risk factors, such as age, sex or smoking against the incidence of disease such as lung cancer or heart disease. Fetch your textbook and answer those graph questions. Pay special attention to correlations and causations i.e. when a risk factor is associated with a disease, as opposed to when a risk factor causes a disease.
For example, studies over a long period of time have shown that in fact excessive smoking causes lung cancer. On the other hand, living in urban areas is associated with an increased risk of having asthma – this does not mean living in a city causes asthma. Rather, it means it is more likely a city will be more polluted than the countryside, and it is the chemicals in the air that may cause asthma.
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