Lifestyle Choices Lead to Better Health

woman with dog in field

When it comes to our health, we sometimes struggle to establish or maintain good habits. We often lack the discipline or willpower to make wise choices in the face of the myriad of distractions in our daily life, like office treats, tempting food ads, and Netflix binges. For most people, living a healthy lifestyle just requires too much dedication and sacrifice to be worth the effort.

Would it surprise you to learn that you have a great deal of control over your own health and longevity simply by the daily choices you make? You may not realize it, but 75 percent of deaths among adults of working age (aged 20 to 65) are preventable and can be tied to five chronic conditions that are driven by five lifestyle behaviors.

Chronic Conditions

Diabetes afflicts approximately 9 percent of the U.S. population and is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. (American Diabetes Association)

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, affecting almost one of every seven Americans. Approximately every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack. (American Heart Association)

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. Almost 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. Cancer mortality is highest among African American men. (American Cancer Society)

Lung Disease takes many forms and can be deadly. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that every five minutes in America a woman is diagnosed with lung cancer. (American Lung Association)

Mental Illness afflicts approximately 18 percent of the total U.S. adult population. Common conditions include: depression, anxiety disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Three in four mental health conditions develop by the age of 24. (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Lifestyle Behaviors

Physical Inactivity is a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes. For optimal health, you should engage in moderate exercise – such as walking, running, or cycling – for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. Incorporate more movement into your daily routine and consider using a fitness tracker to monitor your activity.

Poor Nutrition can contribute to stress, fatigue, and low productivity. Over time, it increases the risk of developing health problems including obesity, tooth decay, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Try to eat a variety of fresh, whole foods that are low in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. By limiting processed foods and watching portion size, you will achieve a healthier diet.

Smoking is detrimental to nearly every organ of the body and causes a host of health problems, including lung disease, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and cancer. Nine of ten lung cancer deaths in the United States are caused by smoking and more women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer. One of the best decisions you can make to improve your health is to not smoke.

Alcohol slows reaction time and impairs judgment and coordination. When consumed in excess, it can cause serious health risks including injury, liver disease, violence, and cancer. While heart-healthy benefits from the antioxidant resveratrol can be derived from drinking red wine in particular, experts agree that moderation is key. Women should limit their alcohol intake to just one drink per day while men can enjoy up to two drinks per day without adverse health effects.

Medication Non-compliance takes many forms from failing to follow a specific treatment plan or take medication to avoiding follow-up appointments or tests. Financial barriers, forgetfulness, transportation challenges, and misunderstandings about the medication and its side effects are the most common causes. Medical compliance enables patients to get healthy whether they are recovering from an illness or injury, or simply managing a chronic condition. Patients need to become their own health advocates by asking clarifying questions, reaching out to others for help, and following doctor’s orders to achieve better health.

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