Lifestyle Choices that Affect Weight Control

Poor lifestyle choices can pave the way for future health problems. Chronic diseases are responsible for 60% of deaths and 70% of cardiac-related deaths in the United States. Chronic disease also accounts for about 60% of all medical care costs. The most common of these diseases include heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and lung disease.

The onset of these chronic conditions is linked to genetics to a small degree. However, the decisions that we take each day regarding nutrition and exercise, have the greatest impact on disease development. These include smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and obesity (1-4).

Because we have a choice in whether or not to adhere to these healthy lifestyle choices, risk of developing a chronic disease can be altered. By making healthy lifestyle choices, death from chronic disease can be avoided or at least delayed in some cases. The lifestyle factors that influence risk of chronic disease death are detailed below.

By modifying lifestyle attributes, the risk of death from chronic conditions can be reduced. If you drink, keep alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks per day. If you don't drink, don't start. Do not smoke. Even if you are a past smoker, you should concentrate on modifying other lifestyle activities, since you will remain at elevated cancer risk. Diet, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle are lifestyle habits that are often linked. Body mass index should be kept between 18.5 and 25. In order to achieve this BMI, greater activity levels combined with a lower-calorie, nutritious diet is the ideal combination. The diet should ideally include 5- 9 portions of fruits and vegetables each day. Several servings of oily fish such as tuna, salmon, or mackerel should be eaten each week. If taking vitamin supplements avoid synthetic vitamins and choose whole food vitamins instead.

Overall, chronic disease is largely influenced by the choices that we make every day. Even with all of the recent advancements in genetic research and medical technology, it appears that diet and exercise remain the mainstays of a long, healthy life.

Dr. Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND

  1. Hu FB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Colditz G, Liu S, Solomon CG, et al. Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. N Engl J Med 2001;345:790-7.
  2. Stampfer MJ, Hu FB, Manson JE, Rimm EB, Willett WC. Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. N Engl J Med 2000;343:16-22.
  3. Key TJ, Schatzkin A, Willett WC, Allen NE, Spencer EA, Travis RC. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of cancer. Public Health Nutr 2004;7:187-200.
  4. Knoops KT, de Groot LC, Kromhout D, Perrin AE, Moreiras-Varela O, Menotti A, et al. Mediterranean diet, lifestyle factors, and 10-year mortality in elderly European men and women: the HALE project. JAMA 2004;292:1433-9.

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