According to new research published by the American Heart Association (AHA), adults in the United States who follow five healthy lifestyle habits may live more than a decade longer than those who do not follow any of the five habits. These are the five habits:
1. Healthy diet: Calculated and rated based on reported intake of healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as unhealthy foods such as red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, trans fat, and sodium.
2. Healthy physical activity level: At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day is required.
3. Healthy body weight: A normal body mass index (BMI) is one that falls between 18.5 and 24.9.
4. Smoking: There is no such thing as a safe level of smoke. Here, “healthy” meant never smoking at all.
5. Moderate alcohol intake: Women should consume 5 to 15 grams per day, while men should consume 5 to 30 grams per day. One drink usually contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. 12 ounces of standard beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits are equivalent.
Researchers have compared data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-Range Online Data for Epidemiologic Research, as well as data on age, ethnicity, and drug usage.
How healthy is ‘healthy?’
Researchers devised a scoring system to compare diets among study participants, awarding higher scores to those who reported consuming more healthy foods and fewer unhealthy foods. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains were all considered healthy foods. Red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, trans-fat, and sodium were among the unhealthy items. According to the American Cancer Society:
- Eating at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day
- Opting for whole-grain breads, pasta, and cereals (such as barley and oats) over refined-grain breads, cereals, and pasta, as well as brown rice over white rice.
- Choosing fish, poultry, or beans over red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meat (bacon, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs).
- Drinking more water and less sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit-flavored beverages.
- Processed carbohydrate items, such as pastries, sweets, sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, and other high-sugar foods, should be consumed in moderation.
- Staying away from high-calorie foods like French fries, potato and other chips, ice cream, doughnuts, and other sweets.
Participants also had the best health ratings if they never smoked, had more than 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise a day (including brisk walking), maintained their body weight in the 18.5–24.9 BMI range, and consumed less than 15 grams of alcohol per day for women and less than 30 grams per day for men. This equates to around one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men.
So what’s really our dilemma?
As the writers of this study point out, we expend a disproportionate amount of money in the United States on creating fancy medicines and other therapies for diseases rather than attempting to avoid them. This is a major issue.
Experts believe that public health campaigns and policy reforms are the best way to help people make healthier eating and lifestyle changes on a wide scale, at the population level. (Similar to motorcycle helmets and seat belt laws…) With tobacco and trans-fat laws, we’ve made some strides.
Of course, there is a lot of pushback from big business on this. Big businesses can sell less fast food, chips, and soda if we have rules and regulations to help us live healthy lives. And that makes businesses hell-bent on making money at the expense of human life really mad.
Healthy American Lifestyles
Healthy American Lifestyles is a site for everyone serious about getting going on improving their health and life. Did you know the United States is far from the healthiest nation in the world? The United States is in 33rd place between the Czech Republic and Bosnia and Herzegovina! Few Americans have a lifestyle that is considered healthy and we’re here to change that.
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