AQA 311 Lifestyle and disease

Here are AQA’s key points in this part of the spec


  • Lifestyle can also affect human health and can increase a natural susceptibility to given diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.
  • Risk is a measure of probability that damage to health will occur as a result of a given hazard.
  • Risk factors are parameters that increase a chance of developing a disease.
  • Specific lifestyle choices may be risk factors and have an impact on the chances of developing diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.



  • Smoking; direct exposure to carcinogenic materials in cigarette tar, or indirect exposure through breathing in by passive smoking.
  • Diet; One rich in saturated fat and low in fibre increases the risk of bowel cancers.
  • Obesity; being overweight increases the risk of cancer.
  • Low physical activity; increases the risk of developing cancer.
  • Exposure to sunlight; either through sunlight or on sun beds, more UV increases the risk of skin cancers.


Coronary Heart Disease

  • Smoking; increases the amount of carbon monoxide in the blood attached to haemoglobin, lowering the oxygen carrying capacity. The heart has to work harder to pump enough oxygen to the tissues and is starved itself. Nicotine also increases adrenaline production which increases heart rate and blood pressure giving a greater risk of heart attack.
  • High blood pressure; prolonged stress, certain diets and lack of exercise increase blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease. This is due to the heart having to work harder to have to pump blood into higher pressure arteries. The higher the blood pressure the greater the risk of aneurysm. To resist the pressure, the walls of the arteries become thickened which restricts blood flow.
  • Dietary factors; High salt causes higher blood pressure and high levels of saturated fat increase low-density lipoprotein in the blood plasma causing higher cholesterol.


Changing lifestyle

  • Changes to lifestyle can reduce the associated risks.
  • Reduction in smoking, increased fibre intake and lower saturated fat, increased levels of exercise and reduced exposure to sunlight etc will dramatically reduce the risk of developing cancer and CHD.
  • Some risk factors are genetic and cannot be affected by lifestyle changes (e.g. some types of high blood pressure).

About chemicalguy

I'm a former research scientist, lecturer, examiner and chemistry & biology tutor. I now write A-level chemistry and biology text books full time to fill the current gaps in the market.
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