As the average life span continues to increase, a good thing to remember is that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just mean the absence of disease. What most of us would hope for is to be able to physically and mentally enjoy all the years of our lives. Investing in your health includes regular physical exams and careful screening for potential illnesses. With the exception of genetic factors, many chronic diseases can be avoided given good nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and the adoption of other health maintenance and disease prevention strategies. In other words, we all have the ability to influence the state of our health by taking action to reduce the risks of developing age-related chronic disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death among American adults are heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease. Lack of awareness and reluctance to take action when faced with health issues are two of the reasons for poor states of health in men. Although women tend to be more vigilant when it comes to their health, more often women have less access to health care for financial reasons.
Heart disease – Heart attacks are the major cause of sudden, unexpected death among both men and women. The major risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and genetics. While genetic factors cannot be controlled, there are life-long strategies that can help minimize risks. For starters, focus on taming stress, spending less time on the couch, and maintaining a healthy weight. With age comes an increased risk for heart disease, so if you want to live longer and better, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels need to be watched and managed. Taking a few extra steps such as exercising regularly, consuming a diet of nutrient-rich foods, and not smoking can all help to lower your risks.
Stroke – According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80% of all strokes can be prevented by working to reduce personal risk. High blood pressure, often labeled “the silent killer” because it can be asymptomatic, is the most common cause of stroke. Untreated high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke as it puts unnecessary stress on blood vessel walls, weakening the vessels and damaging major organs. Smoking doubles the risk, as it contributes to clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and damaged artery walls. High cholesterol, diabetes, excess weight and excessive alcohol consumption are all contributing factors in measuring stroke risk.
Cancer – The first line of defense against cancer is diet, exercise and avoidance of tobacco products. According to Thomas A. Sellers, PhD, Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, as many as 70% of known causes of cancers are avoidable and related to lifestyle. The National Cancer Institute states that cancer is not a single disease but a group of related diseases that are influenced by our genes, our lifestyles and our environment. Scientists believe that cancer preventative factors include a diet high in cancer-protective fruits and vegetables, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, second hand smoke and chemicals.
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease – CLRD, which includes chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. COPD causes serious long-term disability and the death of 120,000 Americans each year. Smoking is the primary risk factor along with repeated exposure to harsh chemicals or fumes, air pollution, allergens or other lung irritants, and lack of nutrition. With no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can make a measurable difference in slowing the progression of the disease and improving the quality of life. As with all chronic disease, prevention should be the goal.
These life threatening chronic diseases are connected by their common intermediate, preventable risk factors, including obesity, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and higher than normal blood sugar. In summation, if you want to age in the healthiest possible way, reduce your risk factors with these six basic steps:
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Do not use tobacco products and avoid second hand smoke
- Eat whole foods, high in nutrients and low in sugar
- Exercise regularly
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
- Reduce stress and get sufficient rest
Products to support successful aging include:
Pycnogenol® (7041) by Douglas Laboratories provides one of the most powerful natural free- radical scavengers available. Pycnogenol® is a useful aid in preventing oxidative damage, provides support for arterial health, and plays an important role in lung and cardiac health.Vessel Care by Metagenics aids in the maintenance of healthy homocysteine levels, supporting overall cardiovascular health. L-Arginine 750 mg by Designs for Health supports healthy coronary microcirculation in those with high cholesterol levels and prevents the creation of blood clots that can lead to heart attack or strokes. Maxi Fiber Powder by Bio-Design provides water soluble dietary fiber. Dietary fiber that keeps bowels functioning well may help to prevent bowel cancer and reduce cholesterol levels.