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Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD)

Annual Council
October 10, 2013
Kathleen Kiem Hoa Oey Kuntaraf MD, MPH
Associate Director for Prevention
General Conference, Health Ministries Department

Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, in an opening speech to
the annual World Health Organization Executive Board meeting, says that noncommunicable
diseases are among the most pressing public health challenges of the future. Obesity, diabetes, heart
attacks, cancers and other chronic diseases are growing globally. Once considered as diseases of
the wealthy, they increasingly are threatening the lives of people in poor and middle-income
countries. i
The World Health Organization reported that NCDs or lifestyle related diseases are the leading
cause of death worldwide, killing more than 36 million people every year since 2008.
Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 48% of these deaths, cancers 21%, chronic respiratory
diseases 12% and diabetes 3%. ii
For the first time, the World Health Organizations annual statistics report includes information
from 194 countries on the percentage of men and women with raised blood pressure and blood
glucose levels. While the global prevalence is around 10%, up to one third of populations in some
Pacific Island countries have this condition. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular
disease, blindness, and kidney failure. iii
In 2004, WHO adopted a non-legal, advocacy-based approach with diet and physical activity that is
known as the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (GSDPAH). This is built on an
earlier strategy of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which called attention to
the role of tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity in the most prominent NCDs: cancer,
chronic obstructive disease and diabetes.iv
We thank God that we as Adventists are very fortunate to have the guidance of Mrs. White, whose
instruction if followed, can help us reduce the risk of getting non-communicable diseases. Not only
does she call attention to the roles played by tobacco use, unhealthful diet, and the need for physical
activity, but we have also been given the comprehensive prescription of following all the natural

"Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in
divine power -- these are the true remedies."v

The General Conference Health Ministries department has gathered all the proven practices that
ensure the best possible health for abundant living using the acronym These
elements of CELEBRATIONS make the whole concept of health a success:

S-ocial Support & Servicesvii

We need the total package of this wholistic prescription to reduce the risk of getting non-
communicable diseases.

An article in the November 2005 National Geographic magazine showed that the Seventh-day
Adventists in Loma Linda, California are among the three groups of centenarians such as:
Dr. Ellsworth Wareham - at 91 years of age was recorded assisting in heart surgery,
Frank Shearer - at 100 years old was still water skiing,
Marge Jetton - at 101 years old had her drivers license extended for another 5 years, and
Lydia Newton - at 112 years old ranked among the worlds 20 oldest people, who died
quietly with no suffering nor lingering illness.viii

So, it has been shown that following this wholistic prescription reduces our risk of getting
noncommunicable diseases and may allow us to live some 10 years longer than those who do not
follow the principles. However, what happens after that? We will eventually die, right? Satan in the
form of a serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:4 ...Ye shall not surely die. But we are all mortal
beings and will die someday. What is encouraging is the following quotation from Ellen G. White,
A pure healthy life is most favorable for the perfection of Christian character and for
the development of the powers of mind and body.ix

I get excited about living this wholistic prescription because it creates an environment for a Christ-
like character to be developed, making us fit for heaven to enjoy the presence of Jesus eternally.

Let us look briefly at Gods wholistic prescription using the acronym CELEBRATIONS.

C is for Celebrating Choices

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly making choices moment by moment. For instance
we have to choose:
whether to have regular exercise
whether to have enough sleep
whether to eat healthful food or junk food
whether to drink water sufficiently
whether to support others, and so forth.

Choosing health and celebrating the joy of life by reducing the risk of getting noncommunicable

diseases should be an intentional decision that is well informed and freely made. As early twentieth-
century politician William Jennings Bryan said Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of
choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.x

What is the source of strength for making correct choices on a regular basis? Philippians 4:13 gives
a very clear answer:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

E is for celebrating Exercise

The United States Surgeon Generals Report on Physical Activity and Health states that physical
exercise is the best single predictor of longevity. In other words, if you want to postpone your
funeral, exercise regularly!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAGA) Advisory Committee, comprising 13
leading experts in the field of exercise science and public health, summarizes the benefits of
exercise: xi

Children and AdolescentsStrong Evidence

Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
Improved bone health
Improved cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers
Favorable body composition

Children and Adolescents Moderate Evidence

Reduced symptoms of depression

Adults and Older Adults - Strong evidence

Lower risk of early death
Lower risk of coronary heart disease
Lower risk of stroke
Lower risk of high blood pressure
Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
Lower risk of colon cancer
Lower risk of breast cancer
Prevention of weight gain
Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced caloric intake
Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
Prevention of falls
Reduced depression
Better cognitive function (for older adults)

Adults and Older Adults - Moderate to Strong Evidence

Better functional health (for older adults)
Reduced abdominal obesity

Adults and Older Adults - Moderate Evidence

Lower risk of hip fracture
Lower risk of lung cancer
Lower risk of endometrial cancer
Weight maintenance after weight loss
Increased bone density
Improved sleep quality

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans encourage a person to accumulate at least
two and a half hours a week in moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Physical
activity up to 1 hour per day results in further risk reduction of cardiovascular disease. We have the
InStep for Life program that recommends us to walk minimally, 8000 steps daily. Ideally, we
should walk 10,000 steps daily. So check your pedometer to see if you have reached your daily

It is amazing that Dr. Kenneth Cooper, of Aerobics fame, who used to promote jogging, is currently
promoting brisk walking rather than running or jogging. Remember the slogan no pain no gain?
People continue to run and run until the whole body was sore. However, walking is different,
because it appeals to many. Walking can be done almost any time or place. Its fun, convenient,
inexpensive, and can be enjoyed alone or with friends. It requires no special equipment.
Comfortable walking shoes and clothing are all that is needed. Brisk walking results in minimal
injuries while exercising most muscles and systems of the body. It stimulates the release of
endorphins, which elevate the mood and improve your outlook on life.

More than 150 years ago Ellen G. White wrote:

Walking, in all cases where it is possible, is the best remedy for diseased bodies, because in this
exercise all the organs of the body are brought into use There is no exercise that can take the
place of walking. By it circulation of the blood is improved.xii

L is for celebrating Liquids

Liquids are indispensable to optimal health. Almost every cell and tissue of the body not only
contains water, but is continually bathed in fluid and requires water to perform its functions. Water,
the liquid of life, is a medium in which metabolism takes place. It is:
the transport system within the body
a lubricant for movement
the facilitator of digestion
the prime transporter of waste via the kidneys
a temperature regulator
a major constituent of the circulating blood

Many problems arise if we do not drink sufficient water. The body will attempt to avoid

dehydration by decreasing sweat and urine output. If this compensatory mechanism proves
inadequate and insufficient fluid intake persists, dehydration will occur. As a result, an impairment
of the body cooling mechanisms will take place, along with the possible rise in body temperature
and an inefficient clearance of body waste. The blood thickens and blood flow becomes impaired,
increasing the risk of intravascular clotting. This may manifest as stroke or heart attack. It also leads
to constipation to the delight of the laxative industry.xiii Drinking an inadequate amount of water
also increases the risk of developing kidney and gallstones.xiv

In 1995, The Journal of the American Medical Association called attention to the hazards facing
older Americans from inadequate fluid intake.xv It is estimated that adequate hydration of older
people could save thousands of days of hospitalization and millions of dollars each year. Such an
observation has implications for all age groups worldwide.

Amazingly Mrs. White counseled this more than 150 years ago. In health and in sickness, pure
water is one of heaven's choicest blessings. Its proper use promotes health. It is the beverage which
God provided to quench the thirst of animals and man. Drunk freely, it helps to supply the
necessities of the system and assists nature to resist disease.xvi

To help stay hydrated during prolonged physical activity or in hot weather, the 2005 Dietary
Guidelines for Americans recommends that we drink fluids during the activity as well as several
glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity is completed.xvii

In the healthy person, a practical guide to water intake is to drink water in the morning because the
body is relatively dehydrated from insensible (invisible) water loss, or perspiration, during sleep.
Then continue to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day to ensure that the urine is a pale
color. (Urine may be a bright yellow color after taking certain medications, including vitamin pills
and anti-tuberculosis medication.)

Another important use of water is for cleansing. Frequent hand washing may reduce transmission of
many infectious agents from person to person. If people thoroughly washed their hands with soap
and water before eating and after activities that soil their hands, a large percentage of infectious
diseases would be eliminated.

Aside from using water internally for our bodies, we also need to use it externally. This is known as
hydrotherapy. This is a simple home therapeutic application using water and it is best applied as a
help for simple muscular aches, pains, and bruises. When dealing with muscular aches, apply hot,
wet towels alternated with cold, wet towels (ending with a cold application) to affected areas to
improve blood flow. However, if it is a recent injury and bruising has occurred, cold compresses are
more appropriate.

Caution should be exercised where the skin is diseased or cut or has impairment in blood flow or
there is a neurological damage resulting in the inability to feel heat. In this case the hot applications
may lead to serious injury (diabetic patients).

There are many modes of hydrotherapy, such as cold mitten friction, hot footbaths, heat

compresses, and ice compresses. Unfortunately, so few utilize this most useful tool for relief.

Mrs. White said The external application of water is one of the easiest and most satisfactory ways
of regulating the circulation of the blood...But many have never learned by experience the beneficial
effects of the proper use of water. All should become intelligent in its use in simple home
treatments xviii Notice that it says all should become intelligent in its use. So this is not only for
nurses or physiotherapists. Everyone should know how to use it.

Let me mention one particular use of hydrotherapy that we do regularly, which is the daily shower.
It removes accumulated dirt and contaminating debris, reducing the risk of infection.
So, after exercising in the morning, start your shower at a neutral temperature (97 - 100
degrees Fahrenheit)
After you have finished bathing, begin to increase the temperature to as hot as you can
tolerate, around 110 degrees for 1- 2 minutes.
Then decrease the temperature to cold (50 - 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20-40 seconds.
Briskly rub your body down with a towel or mitten and dry thoroughly.
This stimulating treatment will not only wake you up but will help keep you going strong
throughout the day.

However, if showering before you go to sleep, use warm water only so the body can relax and make
you ready for a good nights rest.

E is for celebrating the Environment

According to Websters dictionary Environment is any conditions or circumstances that affect the
development of an organism or group of organisms.xix So environment includes climate,
atmosphere, water, soil, vegetation and sunshine.

Because of the limited time of this presentation, let me just mention sunshine. Much of its radiation
is important to well-being, including acting as an insulin for diabetics, but over-exposure to
ultraviolet radiation can be harmful. The best time for sunlight exposure during the winter is before
11:00AM or after 1:00PM. During the summer, it is before 9:00AM and after 4:00PM. In other
words, get your sunrays while they are still long, but never when at its shortest length, such as when
the sun is just above your head. During this time there is risk for developing skin cancer. What
better time to be exposed to sunshine than while you are exercising? You can get the two
prescriptions at the same time!

Our bodies are amazing. When we exercise in the sunshine, serotonin excreted by the pineal gland
will later be converted to melatonin before midnight, when we sleep. This is especially important
since the nocturnal plasma melatonin concentration is much lower as one gets older.

In children from 1- 3 years the nocturnal plasma melatonin concentration is 250

In adolescents from 8-15 years, it goes down to 120 picograms/mL
In young people from 20-27 years, it is 70 picograms/mL
In older persons from 67-84 years, the concentration is 30 picograms/mL.

(1 picogram is one trillionth of a gram)

Although melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, it is not stored there. It leaves the gland
through simple diffusion. As a result, we cannot rely on yesterdays melatonin for todays needs.
Therefore, as we age, the more we need to exercise in the sunshine. Mrs. White mentioned this
more than 150 years ago:

Vigor declines as years advance, leaving less vitality with which to resist unhealthful
influences; hence the greater necessity for the aged to have plenty of sunlight and fresh, pure

B is for celebrating Belief

In the past decade, more than one thousand research studies have been conducted by researchers
from Harvard, Duke, and Yale universities on the effects of faith, prayer and meditation. 500 of
them demonstrated significant positive associations with a life believing in God, such as:

better mental health

greater well being
less anxiety
less depression
less substance abuse
lower suicide rates
more purpose and meaning in life
greater marital satisfaction and stability, and so forth

So, believing in God is a very positive and powerful health-promoting state of mind. There is
nothing more reassuring than the peace and satisfaction experienced by those who place their lives
in the hands of our loving God, who cares for each person dearly to the point of dying on the cross
for humans salvation.

Duke University researchers define strong belief as follows:xxi

religious attendance with strong religious system
daily private devotions
constant colloquial prayer with God

In an Ohio studyxxii regarding the effects of prayer on well-being, there were altogether 560
respondents, 95 percent of whom classified themselves as religious people; 54 percent were
Protestants and 25 percent Catholics. Using factor analysis, they were able to identify four types of
prayer, namely:
Petitional prayer; praying to God for material things you may need
Ritual prayer; praying to God by reading the book of prayers
Meditative prayer; praying to God by feeling or being in His presence
Colloquial prayer; praying to God as talking to a friend and asking Him for guidance in
making decisions.

Of all these types of prayer, the study revealed that colloquial prayer correlates best with happiness
and religious satisfaction; whereas, ritual prayer is associated with a negative effect and feeling all
the more sad, lonely, tense, and fearful. Talking to God as to a friend, telling Him all our joys and
sorrows, can bring happiness, healing, and religious satisfaction. God wants us to develop a close
relationship with Him by using this two-way communication. He speaks to us through the Bible in
our private devotion and we speak to Him through our colloquial prayer. This helps us to cope with
the stress of life and gives us peace of mind.

Marks states in U.S. News & World Report: Somewhere between 75-90% of all doctor visits stem
from stress.xxiii

Should this surprise us? Ellen G. White wrote: Sickness of the mind prevails everywhere. Nine
tenths of the diseases from which man suffers have their foundation here.xxiv

R is for Celebrating Rest

The saying Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,xxv is definitely
true. Ever since the discovery of circadian rhythms or what is known as the natural daily clock,
medical science discovered that there are many hormones released during sleep, such as the
Growth hormone, Cortisol hormone, Prolactin, FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), Luteinizing
hormone, and so forth. Let me just mention about the Growth hormone:
it is produced during pre-midnight sleep (latitude)
it is important for growth
it increases the amino acid transport to the brain (tryptophan to pineal gland to convert
serotonin to melatonin)
it makes learning permanent and useful
its absence impairs immunity (production of cytotoxic T cells)

Early to bed helps us mentally and physically as well as evidence by the production of cytoxic T
cells. It is interesting that Mrs. White wrote: Sleep is worth far more before than after midnight;
two hours good sleep before twelve oclock is worth more than four hours after twelve oclock.xxvi

There are two types of healthful rest:

Daily rest: Night cometh when no man shall work! John 9:4 (KJV, by Public Domain)

Weekly Rest: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your
work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work.
Exodus 20:8-10. (KJV, by Public Domain)

Rev. J. Philip Ashey, the former deputy district attorney in Orange County California, who is now
pastoring the South Riding Church in Virginia, wrote in The Washington Times on October 18,
2004, Sabbath is the antidote to burnout.xxvii God who is our Creator knows that our body needs
weekly rest besides daily rest. In addition to that, a healthful rest includes taking a periodic rest
from your work and taking your annual vacation.

A is for celebrating Air
A person carries approximately 2 quarts of oxygen in the blood, lungs and body tissues, that is
enough to last for four minutes. That is why the American Lung Association states Its a matter of
life and breath.xxviii

So it is good to breathe fresh air. What better way to exercise than to do it near the green trees that
produce oxygen, while we breathe it in, and the plants inhale the carbon dioxide that we breathe out.
We are living up to three prescriptions all at once (exercise under the sunshine near the fresh air of
green trees). The Lord has given us multiple beneficial gifts!

Ellen G. White stated The influence of pure, fresh air is to cause the blood to circulate healthfully
through the system. It refreshes the body and tends to render it strong and healthy, while at the same
time its influence is decidedly felt upon the mind, imparting a degree of composure and serenity. It
excites the appetite, and renders the digestion of food more perfect, and induces sound and sweet

T is for celebrating Temperance

Ellen G. White stated:
True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that
which is healthful. xxx
Thus true temperance has 2 parts:
Abstinence from things that are bad for us such as alcohol, tobacco and all the other illegal
Moderation in good things
Even healthful things, in excess, impact our bodies negatively. For instance drinking water is good,
but too much water can lead to water intoxication. Therefore even in good things it must be done in
moderation to positively impact our lives physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Make sure to
live a balanced life!

I is for celebrating Integrity

When there is a difference between what we say and what we do, we demonstrate a need for
integrity. Studies show that 7% of persons taking their first alcoholic drink will become alcoholics,
and some 15% will have alcohol-related problems such as physical or sexual abuse or be harmed in
an accident.xxxi Therefore, shouldnt we question our integrity when we serve such beverages? We
need to ask ourselves the following questions Can I be trusted?, Can my spouse trust me
implicitly?, Could I trust myself?

Ellen G. White wrote: It is not safe to permit the least departure from the strictest integrity.xxxii
Remember, without integrity there is a lot of remorse, sorrow, sickness and sighing.

O is for celebrating Optimism

Optimism is based on faith in God. There is no reason to be angry or depressed or sad, knowing that
whatever happens in our lives is allowed by God for a reason and it is always for our best.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

A study was done at the Institute of Mental Health, Delft, the Netherlands in which they had five
hundred and forty-five men aged 64 to 84, who were free from preexisting cardiovascular disease
and cancer. Four-item questionnaires were given every 5 years throughout the 15 year study period
(1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000). This was to assess their level of optimism. At the end of the study
these men were divided into 3 groups based on the optimism scores. Then the number of
cardiovascular deaths was compared. Highest optimism scores had an approximately 50% lower
risk of cardiovascular death!xxxiii Therefore, it pays to celebrate life with full optimism.

N is for celebrating Nutrition

God loves us as His children, and when He created Adam and Eve, He clearly showed them what to
eat in order to be healthy. Therefore, we need to celebrate each meal choosing the right kinds of
food to eat. A good choice is the rainbow-colored foods based on My Vegetarian Plate.

Hubert Warner, PhD, the associate director of the Biology of Aging Program at the National
Institute of Aging says: What we know is that diets rich in fruits and vegetables appear to be much
healthier, leading to less chronic disease and lower healthcare costs, but its less clear how any
specific dietary items affect longevity.xxxiv

Experts in an April 29, 2003 WebMD Feature states, If you want to eat foods for living longer,
consider a plant-based diet!xxxv

S is for celebrating Social Support

Ellen G. White wrote Doing good is a work that benefits both giver and receiver.xxxvi

A study done by Nancy Collins and her colleagues at the University of California Los Angeles
(UCLA) involved one hundred twenty nine ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged
pregnant women to see if social support would improve physical and mental outcomes in
pregnancy. They found that women who received more prenatal social support and those who were
more satisfied with that support, experienced fewer labor difficulties, delivered healthier babies as
shown in their Apgar rating, and had higher birth weight babies. They also reported less

Then Drs. Hoffman & Hatch from Columbia University reviewed 144 studies on pregnant women
and concluded that intimate loving support improves fetal growth. Also, women who feel loved and
supported do not increase their risk of premature birth.xxxviii

What are the benefits, of supporting others, to the giver? Let us look at Dr. Sheldon Cohen and his
colleagues at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh who conducted a study
and published it in the 1997 Journal of American Medical Association regarding Social ties and
susceptibility to the common cold.xxxix Two hundred seventy-six healthy volunteers, ranging in age
from 18 to 55, were given nasal drops containing rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold.
Thereafter, participation in 12 types of social relationships was assessed.

Relationships with:
1. Spouse

2. Parents
3. Parents-in-law
4. Children
5. Close family members
6. Close neighbors
7. Friends
8. Fellow workers
9. Schoolmates
10. Fellow volunteers in charity or community work
11. Members of groups without religious affiliations (social, recreational or professional)
12. Members of religious groups

The research revealed that those who reported only one to three types of relationships had more
than four times the risk of developing a cold than those reporting six or more various types of
relationships. These differences were not fully explained by antibody titers (levels), smoking,
exercise, amount of sleep, alcohol, vitamin C, or other variable factors. In addition, the researchers
discovered that the diversity of relationships was more important than the total number of people
whom they spoke to at least once in every two weeks. In short, those involved in mutually
supportive relationships with a diversity of people, regardless of their background, increase their
resistance to infection with the rhinovirus.xl

That is why God wants us to support one another. Not only is it good for those receiving the support
but it also is good for the giver of support.

There are 75 verses in the Bible giving specific instruction on how to provide support and service to
one another as one big family. Here are some of them:

Love one another (John 13:35)

Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13)
Accept/receive one another (Romans 15:7)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Comfort one another (1Thessalonians 4:18)
Fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
Be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Show compassion to one another (1 Peter 3:8)
Be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9)

As we maintain a sweet vertical relationship with the Lord, we will automatically provide social
support to others, treating each person as a child of God regardless of their background. Just
remember, at the foot of the cross, there is level ground. There is no distinction of caste or race, or
education, for each one of us has the same price tag- the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore we can
genuinely support one another from our hearts.

God truly cares for us and gave us this wholistic packaged prescription for our own good. However,

the struggle between making good and bad choices for our health is a continuous one.
Unless we talk with God when we wake up in the morning, we might not drink water and
exercise in the open air and be exposed to the sunlight.
Unless we talk with God during meal time, we might not eat the right kinds of foods.
Unless we talk with God during the day time, we might not provide social support to others,
valuing a person as a child of God.
Unless we talk with God during the daytime, we might not remember to work temperately.
Unless we talk with God during the end of the day, we might not sleep at the right time
Without continually committing our lifestyle to God each moment of the day, we will constantly
meet with failure. God has promised long-term success only to those who maintain a long term
relationship with Him. Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through Christ which strengthens

May we live up to these whole packaged prescription principles not only to reduce
noncommunicable disease risks, but to live a longer life, develop a Christ-like character and
provide information to our community.
Following these principles is not only a good response to the World Health Organization
partnership extended to our church, but is also a good response to Gods calling for a
comprehensive health ministry.

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