Topic of the Month June 2014: Lifestyle and Mortality Rates

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
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Doctor Paul KennedyNearly four years ago I wrote a “Topic of the Month” called “Don’t Just Sit There and Die” (September, 2010). As morbid as the title may have seemed, I received some very positive feedback concerning the importance of the message and the realization by many that being physically active can not only be fun but life saving and “life extending”. This information seems to have been verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent weekly report released on May 1, 2014. Although the information contained in the report was not necessarily a surprise, it was most certainly an eye opener in terms of the presentation.

According to health officials that designed the report:

  • Nearly two-thirds of all annual deaths were found to be caused by five conditions—all modifiable!!
  • Moreover, it was reported that 40% of those deaths were, for the most part, caused as a result of habits sadly engrained in our culture.

In other words, they were preventable!

What were those modifiable health risk factors? I’m sure that they are easy for one to guess. In no particular order, they were;

  • tobacco use (nearly 20% of Americans STILL smoke)
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • lack of physical activity (no surprise there!)
  • poor nutrition (including high fat, high sugar and processed foods)
  • exposure to second-hand smoke
  • drug and alcohol use
  • and even lack of adherence to the use of seat belts and motorcycle helmets.

In the study, it was found that that heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke and accidents (the top five causes) were responsible for 63% of all deaths. As one can see, nearly all of the above list includes preventable conditions. The data were collected over three years (2008 to 2010) from the National Vital Statistics System and included all deaths for people under 80. Four of the first five diseases or condition, as regular readers of this column are sure to realize, are directly related to “lifestyle”.

In other words, poor eating habits and lack of regular exercise were likely the underlying causative factor.

The top four conditions/diseases were: heart disease (91,000 deaths), cancer (85,000 deaths), respiratory diseases (29,000 deaths) and stroke (17,000 deaths). Another 39,000 deaths were caused by injury (the fifth major cause).

Therefore, approximately 222,000 people died in a three year period of diseases and/or conditions that were preventable with simple lifestyle changes.

The risk factors are modifiable with improvements in eating plans and involvement in a regular routine of movement and exercise.

Can anyone at any age benefit from better eating habits and regular exercise?
Of course! And we’re not talking about a “program” of celery sticks and triathlons.
Here are some very reasonable changes which can improve your life:

  • A small reduction in daily caloric intake and a simple walking program can make a huge difference over time in our body’s ability to fend off a whole list of diseases.
  • A 30 minute walk each day along with a reduction of just 200 calories per day can result in a reduction in body fat of about 20 pounds per year and a healthier circulatory system!
  • Add a strength training program to regain calorie burning muscle tissue and even more body fat can be lost.

Of course, there are no guarantees, but over time a healthier and more energetic body will emerge. Be patient in your expectations of improved health and fitness but rest assured that with compliance, you WILL succeed! Of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new fitness or wellness program. Don’t be a statistic.

And know that a healthier and fit life IS possible!

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for June 2014. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

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