Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. It includes diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. These diseases can severely limit what you’re able to do and worsen as you age. They also can cost you a lot of money in healthcare.
Fortunately for most people, these life-limiting diseases can actually be prevented and even reversed. Our behaviors - mainly our diet and exercise habits - is primarily responsible for causing chronic disease. When our behaviors are corrected, our health can be restored and strengthened.
Are you at risk for Chronic Disease? If you're not doing these 7 basic things, then you probably are:
1. You eat about 3 servings of vegetables per day.
Vegetables provide important nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals that maintain health and prevent disease. It’s important to eat a variety of vegetables such as dark green, red and orange, legumes, and starchy vegetables to get all the different nutrients you need to stay healthy. If you don’t eat enough and a variety of vegetables, you can put yourself at risk for heart disease, infections, colon disease, kidney disease, and many other health problems.
2. You eat about 2 servings of fruits per day.
Like vegetables, fruits provide a variety of nutrients that are essential to good health and disease prevention. And also like vegetables, you need to take in a variety of fruits to get in all these different nutrients. When we don’t take in all the required nutrients our body needs, such as vitamin C, fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin A, we are at risk for chronic diseases.
3. You drink mostly water. / You rarely drink soda and juice, if ever.
Our bodies are made up of mostly water. Our brain and heart are composed of about 70%; our lungs are about 80%; our skin is about 60%; our muscles and kidneys are about 80%; and even our bones have about 30% water content. Without water we couldn’t regulate our internal body temperature, flush waste out of our body, protect our brain and spinal cord from shock, lubricate our joints, and transport all the materials we need in order to function properly around our body. It is very important that we drink water instead of soda and juice because of the added sugars that are typically found in those beverages. The excess sugars from soda and juice are one of the greatest contributors to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers in most people.
4. You eat mostly “whole-grains”.
Grains are an important part of a healthy diet. Even though carbohydrates tend to get a bad rap, grains (more specifically whole-grains) are an important source of many nutrients that help your body stay healthy and prevent disease. They are an excellent source of energy and also provide fiber and other vitamins necessary to maintain healthy organs and your immune system.
5. You eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Protein foods such as these provide many nutrients that are vital to the health and maintenance of our bodies. These foods are an excellent source of protein (especially animal products because they contain all the essential amino-acids). Proteins have many important roles in our bodies such as helping our cells communicate with each other, providing structure to our cells, allowing chemical reactions to to take place, and maintaining and building muscle. Protein can even be converted into sugar to be used as energy. Without protein, we would not exist. Other than protein, these foods provide many other nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron, and magnesium that are necessary to our health. However, it is important to consume some of these products in moderation as excess saturated fat has been linked to heart disease.
6. You rarely eat “processed” foods.
Processed foods tend to be found in cans, packages, wrappers, and as “fast food”. Many of these foods contain high amounts of added sugar and sodium, both of which when taken in excess have been strongly associated with increased cases of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. They also tend to contain other additives such as preservatives that have been linked to cancer and other health problems.
7. You get at least 30 minutes a day of mild-moderate aerobic physical activity such as walking or a light jog and 2-3 days a week of muscle-strengthening exercise.
The benefits of physical activity are well-established. When people get little to no physical activity, their health can suffer severely. Physical activity can protect your heart, organs, and bones and can help you function well even into your old age. It is also important that you do not sit for prolonged periods of time as that has also been linked to serious health consequences. When it comes down to it, these are the basics of health. It's important that if you want to prevent disease and increase your overall health, this is where to start!