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Step Up to Living Well

Published: June 6, 2009

Seems we have some work to do when it comes to protecting arguably our most valuable asset—good health. But it’s never too late. And the benefits are many.

“The payoff from healthy eating and active living is not just the reduction of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer years down the road,” says Post contributor and Harvard professor and nutrition researcher Walter Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H. “It also means feeling better and having more energy after just a few weeks.”

Unfortunately, Americans reported healthier lifestyles two decades ago than they do today, according to new information from the Medical University of South Carolina. The finding is based on a comparison of healthy habits in people ages 40 to 74 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1988-1994 and 2001-2006. “Only 8 percent of today’s patients engage in all five healthy behaviors—maintaining a healthy weight, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol in moderation, exercising, and not smoking—compared with 15 percent in 1988,”reported lead researcher Dr. Dana E. King in the American Journal of Medicine. Overall, the research shows an increase in average body mass index (BMI) and alcohol use during the past 18 years. Fewer people eat five or more fruits and vegetables daily and engage in physical activity 12 or more times a month. Smoking rates are unchanged.

How can you live longer and better—and help curtail the upward spiral of health care costs linked to diabetes, hypertension, and obesity? As the common adage goes: Every journey begins with a single step. Consider planting tomatoes, lettuce, and strawberries in pots for a convenient and economical source of vegetables and fruits. Walk whenever and wherever possible. Drink more water and consume more fiber. Start today!

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