Each year, two out of every three deaths in the United States are caused by cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
That figure could be significantly reduced if Americans made healthier food choices, got more exercise, and stopped smoking, according to the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association.
In fact, these organizations feel so strongly about the importance of everyday choices that they have sponsored a joint initiative called Everyday Choices for a Healthier Life designed to encourage prevention and early detection of these diseases.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent chronic disease to eat a healthy diet:
- Have at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains over processed grains. To determine if a food is made with whole grains, look for “whole wheat” or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label.
- Limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates, including pastries, sweetened cereals, soft drinks, and other foods high in sugar.
- Substitute healthier fats for not-so-healthy ones. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil, instead of butter, margarine, and lard.
- Watch your portion sizes. Most Americans eat much more food than they need.
Being physically active for at least 30 minutes on five or more days each week can help reduce your risk for disease:
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take a 10-minute activity break at work to stretch or take a quick walk, or use your lunch break to add some activity to your day.
- Wear a pedometer and strive to increase the number of steps you take each day.
- Join a sports or recreation team.
- Use a stationary bicycle or treadmill while watching TV.
Smoking is the single most preventable cause of disease and death in the United States. The habit causes almost one-third of all cancer deaths and one-fifth of deaths from heart disease and stroke.
See your doctor
Your doctor can help you stay healthy by providing guidance:
- Prevention. Your doctor can help identify your unhealthy lifestyle habits and offer advice on better choices.
- Screening. Tests can help find health problems early, when they can be treated more easily and effectively. Your doctor can recommend the most appropriate screenings for you.