Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reduce Your Risk of Disease With 4 Simple Habits

Anyone remember the old Outer Limits show? Here's a play on the opening...

Do attempt to control your life.

You control your weight.

You control your behaviors.

You control your diet.

You control your health.

O.K., well maybe you don't control your health completely but you can reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer by 78% through 4 simple habits. Here they are, in order of importance:

1. Maintain a BMI (body mass index) below 30. I have issues with using BMI (it's not always an accurate measurement of a healthy weight with some people) but the bottom line here is to dump excess body fat.

2. Don't smoke.

3. Exercise a total of at least 3 1/2 hours per week. (That's only 30 minutes a day.)

4. Follow a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and limit your meat intake.

As reported in August's Archives of Internal Medicine, starting in the mid-1990s researchers analyzed the health, lifestyles, and diet of 23,513 German adults 35 to 65 years old. They found that those who had more healthy habits were much less likely to get diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Researchers recorded and analyzed each person's height and body weight, food frequency, disease background, and how closely they followed the 4 healthy lifestyle habits over the 8 year study period.

After adjusting for risk factors that might have influenced the development of disease, researchers found that study participants who followed all four healthy habits had a 78% lower risk of developing a chronic condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer compared to those who followed none of the habits.

Obviously, the best course of action is to incorporate all 4 healthy habits into your lifestyle. However, the study also showed that there was benefit from following just 3 of the rules and even some health benefits from following just 2 or 1.

So, if you need to, start small. Concentrate on 1 of the 4. When you've made that part of your lifestyle, start working on another. You'll feel better, look better and you'll reduce your risk of chronic disease.

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