The riddle of chronic diseases

Source: V.P. (Vytenis) Andriukaitis i, published on Wednesday, July 29 2015.

Before many of you leave on holidays, allow me a quick riddle: I have the answer - it is 'too late. But what is the question? Let's try and crack this one together.

Stress, poor diet, lack of physical exercise are being debated everywhere - from the grim headlines in scientific journals to popular TV shows. The result of these dangers all too often is chronic illnesses, leading in turn to poor quality of life and premature death. Chronic illness, incidentally, is the main cause of premature death.

Statistics show that we are still unable to check the spread of chronic illnesses - each day, more and more people are diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illnesses, etc.

How does an individual react when he or she is given a diagnosis they have to live with and get used to? Often they start thinking - could I change something? I'll stop smoking and drinking alcohol, I'll start exercising and eating healthily... The cruel fact is that often we realise the answer to this question is: it's too late.

The answer to the riddle is painful. It is hard to accept that at some point our preventive effort may come too late.

As the Commissioner responsible for health and food safety, and as a human being, I am not in the least concerned about statistics. I am concerned about those individuals who today received the irrevocable diagnosis that they could have avoided. There is a genetic factor involved which, nowadays, can be quite readily managed. Even though it is susceptible to external triggers, it can be slowed down or remain dormant. Lifestyle choices, early screening and other preventive measures can often give us an invaluable head start on a disease.

Before many of you leave on holiday it is not too late to make the right choices. It is not too late to stick to them during your vacation. And it is certainly not too late to maintain them throughout the year.

I wish you great summer holidays!