Potential of Prevention: Only 3 Percent of Us Meet 4 Key Health Behaviors

by Katy Henke

When it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, let’s just say that Americans have a lot of room for improvement. That’s according to a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that found that only 2.7 percent of U.S. adults practice four key behaviors that can improve health and lower the risk of important chronic diseases.

The study analyzed data from more than 4,700 people who volunteered for the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers were specifically interested in learning how many Americans follow four key guidelines for living healthy: not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising a moderate amount, and keeping body fat in a healthy range.

Around 34 percent did one of these healthy behaviors. Around 37 percent did two. Just under 3 percent did all four. And 11 percent did none at all.

What these results show is that the great majority of Americans can make changes in their lifestyles that can have an important impact on their risk of the most common diseases in the US, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. At least half of these diseases can be prevented by things we can all do.

So what can we do to create a healthy lifestyle? It’s pretty straightforward.

  1. If you smoke, try quitting immediately. Quitting can be the best thing you do for your overall health. Contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW or today for ways to quit and support along the way.
  2. Exercise regularly. It’s recommended that adults exercise at a moderate level for 150 minutes each week. Think of that as 30 minutes each day for 5 days a week. Walk with your family after dinner, play games with your children or dance at home. Any amount is better than none.
  3. Eat a healthy diet. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Remember to cut back on red meats and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Consider a multivitamin with folate for a little boost to your diet.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Focus on exercising daily and eating a healthy diet. It’s also important to watch portions, eat slowly, and be especially mindful of how much you eat. Calories really matter. 

In addition to these four strategies, check out Your Disease Risk, an online prevention tool that estimates your risk of important chronic diseases and offers personalized tips for lowering risk.

Change can be hard. And living a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy — Just ask the 97 percent of folks who missed perfect marks in this latest study. But decades of research show that it’s worth the effort, greatly lowering the risk of many diseases and improving overall health.

Get started today, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you.

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