Healthy Lifestyle Choices Pay Off

September 18, 2012 in Exercise, Fitness, General, Health by Mary Ireland

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Grandma's last blog post, that instead of focusing on a 30% caloric reduction, most of us would do good to focus on having a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle. Although I do have to say that using a diet of 28% table sugar and then measuring for longevity seems like a poorly designed study to me!

Two new reports out in the last month provide more data and more support for healthy lifestyle choices. According to research reported in Circulation: Heart Failure, an American Heart Association journal, not smoking, maintaining a normal weight, getting regular physical activity and eating vegetables, you can significantly reduce your risk for heart failure. The research found that:

  • Male smokers had an 86 percent higher risk for heart failure compared to those who have never smokered. Women smokers' risk increased to 109 percent.
  • Being overweight increased heart failure risk by 15 percent in men and 21 percent in women compared to normal-weight people. The risk increased to 75 percent for obese men and 106 percent for obese women.
  • Moderate physical activity reduced the risk of heart failure by 21 percent in men and 13 percent in women compared to a light physical activity level. High levels of physical activity lowered the risk even further: 33 percent in men and 36 percent in women.
  • Eating vegetables three to six times per week decreased heart failure risk by 26 percent in men and 27 percent in women compared to those who ate vegetables less than once per week.

Engaging in only one healthy behavior reduced the risk of heart failure by 47 percent for women and 32 percent for men. Engaging in all four healthy lifestyle behaviors decreased the risk for heart failure by 70 percent in men and 81 percent in women.

The other study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology, found that healthy lifestyle choices reduced the risk for hypertension by two-thirds. In this study, the follow healthy behaviors were evaluated.

  • alcohol consumption less than 50g per week,
  • leisure time physical activity at least 3 times per week,
  • daily consumption of vegetables
  • normal weight (BMI<25kg/m2)

Smoking was omitted from the final analysis because it was not associated with the development of hypertension, even though smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The results of these studies are probably no surprise to those who keep up with health-related issues. The question for most people is not so much what, as it is how. Researchers from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research analysed data on the diet, exercise and personality type of more than 7000 people. The researchers concluded that a "can do attitude" is the key to actually leading a healthy lifestyle.

The study found those who believe their life can be changed by their own actions ate healthier food, exercised more, smoked less and avoided binge drinking. The study also found men and women hold different views on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Men wanted to see physical results from their healthy choices and women were more receptive to the enjoyment of leading a healthy lifestyle.

After reading the research on the "can do" attitude, I remembered a conversation that I had with one of my neighbors recently. She was on a quest to lose five pounds. When were talking about this, she kept mentioning how difficult it was to lose weight - a subject we have touched on in our blogs and for which we have a great amount of empathy and sympathy. However, I was disconcerted as her conversation took a more negative turn -- about a friend who was in great physical condition and who ate a healthy diet, but died before the age of 65 from pancreatic cancer. She talked of another friend who was always thin but yet her skin still sagged. The conversation continued in that vein. I could see that my neighbor was looking for excuses.

If you want to succeed at living a healthy lifestyle, start by listening to your self-talk. Do you focus on really being able to make a change in your life and identifying the steps to making that happen; or do you think about why it won't work? The decisions are up to you. If you need support, look no further than our blog posts and other information on our website to provide you the data that proves what you do does make a difference. Start today; the research shows that it is never too late.