Following recent news that obesity related cancers are on the rise in younger generations across the globe and in particular the US, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Mr Rajiv Bajekal of Total Orthopaedics warns that Britain’s millennials could be following this trend if their approach to health is not addressed sufficiently.
Research published in The Lancet found that the rates of six out of 12 obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic and multiple myeloma – a blood cancer all were disproportionately increased, particularly in people under the age of 50. In addition to this they also found rises in cancer rates amongst the younger generations for example, the risk of colorectal, uterine and gallbladder cancers have doubled for millennials compared to baby boomers now aged 50 to 70. Other cancers which are common such as breast and ovarian cancer are also much more common in obese women.
In the UK, 26% of adults were classified as obese, this is an increase of 15% since 1993. Mr Rajiv Bajekal says, “Although we are living in an era with modern medicine, medical technology and expertise, we are still seeing a rise in obesity and chronic health conditions since the last 40 years. There should be much more emphasis on preventive medicine which in turn encourages people to make lifestyle adjustments to improve their health or reverse looming conditions”. Having previously suffered ill health, Mr Bajekal found a preventive Lifestyle Medicine approach which he now offers his own patients at Total Orthopaedics. Mr Bajekal’s new regime led him to reverse his prediabetes and lose 4 stone in weight giving him more energy and vitality than he has had in years.
With the increasing concern of obesity in the UK, we ask Mr Bajekal about the main framework behind Lifestyle Medicine and how can they be adopted to see effective change for someone who is struggling with weight gain.
What are your thoughts on this latest research about the rise in cancer related obesity across the globe amongst millennials?
I think the research from the Lancet is further evidence for the fact we need to encourage millennials, as well as everyone, to make significant and long-term changes to their approach to diet and lifestyle. The good news is that 40% of cancer cases are preventable, through lifestyle changes including diet and exercise.
What do you believe are the underlying factors that has led to this increase in cancer related obesity?
The rise in cancer related obesity is strongly correlated with poor dietary choices, high stress levels, lack of exercise and other lifestyle issues. Maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, reducing alcohol consumption, incorporating exercise into your daily life and having good quality sleep can go a long way in preventing lifestyle-related cancers.
What are the early warning signs that a person between the age of 25-35 might be in danger of chronic health conditions?
There are several early warning signs that should be a red flag for people aged between 25 to 35. One of the signs is when weight gain is above a normal BMI level or an even simpler test is to measure abdominal girth at the level of the belly button. If this is above 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women, it correlates with health problems in the future. If you have pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, you should look to make dietary modifications immediately. This would involve increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, legumes and pulses and eliminating or significantly reducing the intake of saturated fat from animal products and oils.
Another early warning sign is if you’re a woman suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which puts you at a higher risk for womb cancer in particular. You can manage this common condition through dietary and lifestyle changes.
Do you think cancer related conditions could also increase in Britain?
Unfortunately, cancer related conditions are already extremely prevalent and this upward trend is likely to continue unless we radically address our approach to health and wellbeing.
What is Lifestyle Medicine and how can it help someone between the ages of 25-35 years?
Lifestyle medicine is an established and evidence-based approach that focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and society as a whole. It empowers the patient to take control of their own health and understands the many determinants of disease, including social, environmental, genetic and emotional factors. Implementing a whole foods plant based diet, adequate sleep, exercise and stress management are part of the lifestyle medicine approach. It runs alongside conventional medicine unlike alternative medicine but is foundational in preventing chronic ill health.
Do you believe that traditional medicine and hospitals should include Lifestyle Medicine into its clinic as standard?
At present, doctors in training barely have 10 hours of training in nutrition and lack the knowledge base to best advise their patients. I believe traditional medicine can be integrated with lifestyle medicine to enable doctors to provide a more holistic approach to treatment and health. This helps to empower the patient to take control of their health. It is critical that hospitals and surgeons come on board for the health of the patient as well as to alleviate the pressures on the healthcare system. Public Health England estimates that problems relating to poor diet, smoking and alcohol consumption cost the NHS more than £11billion every year. Lifestyle medicine can help with ongoing prevention of chronic and life-threatening conditions. Despite increases in health care spending, we as a nation are getting sicker and suffering with chronic health conditions.
Has Lifestyle Medicine proven beneficial to any of your patients as an Orthopaedic surgeon, i.e. preparation for surgery and efficient recovery?
Yes certainly. Many of my patients have implemented aspects of lifestyle medicine into their lifestyle whether it is practising Pilates to ease lower back pain or choosing a whole foods plant-based diet which can help with their recovery by reducing inflammation. Lifestyle factors such as diet play a hugely important role in prevention for a variety of Orthopaedic issues from back pain to osteoporosis. Even in patients who are undergoing surgery, recurrence of problems in the future are best prevented by addressing lifestyle issues.