Nutrition and Overall Health

Researchers of nearly all chronic diseases have studied the role of nutrition (the term chronic is used to refer to diseases that often begin at a younger age and develop over time). Six of the top 13 causes of death are related to poor nutrition and inactivity. By rank, these are heart disease (number 1), cancer (2), stroke (3), type 2 diabetes (6), chronic liver disease or cirrhosis (12), an d high blood pressure (13). Obesity is related to many of these causes of death, and although some have a genetic component, most are related to poor nutrition and lack of exercise, both of which are lifestyle habits.

Chronic diseases resulting from poor nutrition also lead to other disabilities, resulting in further loss of independence. For example, type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness and amputation. Hip fractures are typically a result of osteoporosis, and people who suffer from a hip fracture are more likely to die within one year of their fracture or require long-term care. Approximately 69% of people who have a first heart attack, 77% of those who have a first stroke, and 74% of those with congestive heart failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg (i.e., hypertension). Obesity is an epidemic, with about a third of adults in the United States considered obese. Furthermore, about 17% of American children and teenagers (2 to 19 years of age) are considered obese.

Researchers have reported that unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior cause from 310,000 to 580,000 deaths per year in the United States. Because most Americans consume diets too high in total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, and too low in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fiber, poor health and death are often related to poor nutrition. The combination of unhealthy diets and inactivity are the leading causes of death in the United States, above tobacco and alcohol use, and far above drug use and motor vehicle accidents. In addition, the health care of poor nutrition and inactivity are astronomical. Healthier diets could save billions of dollars in medical costs per year, and also prevent lost productivity and, most important, loss of life.

Good nutrition and physical activity are the two beneficial “medicines” you can use to prevent disease and live a good-quality life. Take control! You owe it to yourself to treat your body well.

Tips for Good Sleep

• Stick to sleep schedule. Setting a regular time for sleeping and waking helps your body develop a healthy rhythm that improves sleep.
• Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that tend to increase alertness and decrease sleepiness and sleep quality.
• Exercise regularly. Sleep quantity and quality are positively affected by exercise, especially moderately intense aerobic exercise performed several hours before bedtime.
• Relax before going to bed. Being too activated mentally or physically before going to bed can result in bodily changes that promote wakefulness.
• Don’t lie in bed awake. Experts recommend getting out of bed and doing something relaxing if you are awake, and returning to bed when sleepy.
• Limit naps. Although debate exists around the subject of napping, most experts recommend that naps be less than 45 minutes in length and several hours before regular sleep.
• Talk to your physician. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and achieving restful sleep for extended periods of time are indicators to seek the advice of a physician.

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