Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, asthma and obesity are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the United States.
The numbers are scary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86 percent of our nation’s health care costs. The three most prevalent chronic diseases—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—account for more than 50 percent of all deaths each year.
The good news is that chronic diseases can be prevented. By getting more physical activity, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and consuming alcoholic beverages in moderation, much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic disease can be avoided.
Physical Activity and Active Living
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Together with eating right, regular physical activity can help prevent a range of chronic diseases. To enjoy the benefits of good health, both adults and children need to get enough physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed helpful physical activity guidelines to help Americans move more and be healthy.
Fitting in fitness is often difficult with busy schedules, but try to not let that stop you. Mayoclinic.org is just one of the many websites that offers helpful tips and solutions for fitting in more physical activity into your day. Remember to think of it and play and focus on fun and enjoyment – you don’t have to go to the gym to be active (but of course you can if you like!) The point is, to find something(s) that you truly enjoy or you enjoy doing with your family, so that you will stick with it. Try to be more active – your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it!
For children and adolescents, getting enough physical activity can also improve academic performance. Learn more about the benefits of physical activity for students on our site here.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating
Although it can be difficult to achieve, a key part of a healthy lifestyle is ensuring good nutrition through a well-balanced diet. Numerous studies have found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk for the three leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer and stroke— and can also play an important role in weight management.
Studies of American diets show that most Americans consume too much sodium (salt) and too many calories from solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains. These foods often replace nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables. The 2010 USDA guidelines recommend limiting intake of sodium, solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains and increasing intake of nutrient-dense foods and beverages such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.
Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to try the USDA’s interactive tools, create a personalized eating plan, and assess your food and physical activity choices based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.
One in five American adults is currently a smoker according to the CDC. Over time, tobacco use can lead to serious health problems such as early heart disease and stroke; cancer; gum disease and tooth loss; chronic lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis; hearing loss; and vision problems, including blindness. It’s easy to see why it is why it is so important to quit using tobacco products.
In fact, more than 16 million Americans are living with a smoking-related disease, and almost 500,000 people are killed by tobacco-related diseases each year. Many free programs are available to help smokers and other tobacco users kick the habit. The CDC and the American Cancer Society both have helpful online tools for quitting.
Learn more about tobacco use and cessation on our website here, especially in regards to students.
Addressing Alcohol Abuse
According to the CDC, alcohol is one of the most widely used drug substances in the world. While there are many short-term health risks associated with alcohol abuse, chronic diseases are attributed to long-term use of alcohol.
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the mouth, breast, throat, esophagus, liver and colon.
- Learning and memory problems.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including family issues and unemployment.
If you or someone you know needs help, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has step-by-step guides to help. Or, you can start by contacting the government’s treatment locator service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or go online at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/. (This service is supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.) This treatment locator service lets you to search for a provider in your area.
You can also learn more about substance misuse and abuse on our website here, especially in regards to students.