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Fewer People in US Follow Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of an analysis show that fewer people in the US follow healthy lifestyle practices. Researchers compared exercise, diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, and expanding waistlines among American adults, finding that healthy lifestyle habits have declined from fifteen percent to eight percent in the past eighteen years.

Personnel from The Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston examined studies from 1988 to 1994, and 2001 to 2006. They found that fewer people in the US are following healthy habits that include weight control, consuming five or more fruits and vegetables a day, and engaging in physical activity twelve times a month.

Additionally, body mass index has increased. The number of people with BMI greater than 30 has increased from 28 to 36 percent. There has been no change in smoking rates, and moderate alcohol consumption has increased from 40 to 51 percent. The finding that fewer people follow healthy lifestyle habits means increased risk of diabetes and heart disease among Americans.

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The data, extracted from annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) showed that people already diagnosed with high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease were no more likely to try to reduce their risk factors by following healthy lifestyle habits.

"The potential public health benefits from promoting a healthier lifestyle at all ages, and especially ages 40-74 years, are substantial. Regular physical activity and a prudent diet can reduce the risk of premature death and disability from a variety of conditions including coronary heart disease, and are strongly related to the incidence of obesity. In the US, medical costs due to physical inactivity and its consequences are estimated at $76 billion in 2000 dollars”, writes Dana E. King, MD, MS in the article, published in the June 2009 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

The value of following a healthy lifestyle has well-known benefits, yet fewer people in the US choose to follow a healthy lifestyle, as shown by the data extracted from the NHANES surveys, beginning in 1988. Additionally, those who already have risk factors for heart disease are not adopting healthier lifestyles, especially important in mid-life.

The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 122, Issue 6 (June 2009) published by Elsevier.