Four Healthy Behaviors We Should All Adopt
September 12, 2013

Four Healthy Behaviors We Should All Adopt

So, by now most people know that if they smoke, are overweight, eat poorly, and do not exercise, they are unhealthy. But did you know that those who do not smoke, eat healthy and keep weight down, and exercise regularly are much, much healthier? In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports their chances of death from all causes reduces to 80 percent. Let me write that again: people who eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight, do not smoke, and exercise regularly are 80 percent less likely to die from all causes.

The focus of most studies is on how dangerous a lifestyle full of smoking, fat, and being sedentary is, but this one conducted by Johns Hopkins University instills how important it is to not smoke, follow a healthy diet, stay at a normal weight, and be active. The study followed over 6,000 participants aged 44-84 for multiple years. Only 2 percent of the participants fulfilled all four healthy lifestyle criteria: no smoking, eating healthy, keeping a normal weight, and exercising. To eat healthy, the study particularly focused on a Mediterranean Diet, which is one that is full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, whole grains, and fish, but low in wine, dairy, and meats.

In the words of the Los Angeles Times, “The study participants, ages 44 to 84, were all part of the ongoing Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and did not have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease when they were enrolled. They were screened for coronary calcium and measured for weight, body mass index and other factors.”

Not surprisingly, the biggest factor in living a long and healthy life was avoiding smoking. Smoking is linked to heart disease, cancer, respiratory issues, and even skin and teeth problems. Likely, I am missing some of the other issues to which smoking contributes. It is one of the worst lifestyle habits one can become addicted to because of its impact on health. To reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and mortality, quitting smoking is one of the best choices one can make.

However, even “smokers who adopted two or more of the healthy behaviors still had lower survival rates after 7.6 years than did nonsmokers who were sedentary and obese.”

What all this says to me is that adopting as many of the four healthy lifestyle criteria means not just a healthier life but also a longer one. For those who follow all four of these behaviors, they will see an 80 percent reduction in death, particularly death caused by health reasons. That is staggering and should inspire us all to follow as many of these as we can.

Of course, we cannot prevent death altogether, but we can ensure that we live the healthiest, longest life possible. Genetic predispositions definitely play a role in this discussion. For instance, my dad died from heart disease, as did both of my grandfathers and several ancestors. Heart disease is definitely something I have to be concerned with (amongst a few others), which is why I try to do all I can to support my heart health. Some people have diabetes, respiratory issues, cancers, and other diseases, disorders, and issues influenced by genetics. For all these reasons, we should look into being as healthy as we can, which includes not smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a normal weight, and being active.

I already follow all of these for the most part because health is sort of my thing. The only real exception for me is that I eat dairy products pretty regularly. I have always followed a Mediterranean diet ,although I did not realize it until just recently; however, I do eat yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and drink milk. So, for me, I will minimize my dairy intake by cutting down on cheese and ice cream and drinking more almond or soy milk. I will continue to eat yogurt because it provides many health benefits, but I will definitely focus on Greek yogurt (click here for my blog about that). Otherwise, I will continue to watch my weight, exercise regularly, and not smoke because a healthy life is important.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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