Are You One Of The Few Who Can Make This Healthy Boast?

The percentage of U.S. adults living an optimally healthy lifestyle is an eyebrow-raising 2.7 percent.

Just 2.7 percent of us meet national health and nutrition standards in four important areas: diet, exercise, body fat percentage, and smoking status. Those diligent few with healthy measures in all four areas are naturally at decreased risk for problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

How We Measure Up

The researchers studying these four lifestyle areas, or behavioral biomarkers, also found:

  • 16 percent of adults had healthy habits in three of the four biomarker areas.
  • 37 percent did well in two areas, and 34 percent in only one.
  • 11 percent did not have good habits in any area.
  • Men were more likely to get adequate exercise, and women were more likely to eat well, and not smoke.
  • Those with two or three healthy habit areas had substantially better cardiovascular measurements than those with one, or none.

Because the number of people with good lifestyle habits in all four areas is so small, we might assume the standards used in this research were set high, but that is not the case. “The behavior standards we were measuring for were pretty reasonable, not super high,” said researcher Ellen Smit, Oregon State University. “We weren’t looking for marathon runners.”

The Good News

The study’s choice of reasonable measuring standards is good news. It means none of us have to make drastic changes to increase our number of healthy habit areas from one to two, or from two to three.

By making small positive changes in one or two of our weak areas - and we know what they are - we can gradually improve our overall health, and maybe even our A1C levels.

We might, for instance:

  • Take a lap or two around the nearest mall, or big box store two or three times each week.
  • Use the stairs whenever possible, instead of escalators or elevators.
  • Make a plan with our doctor or dietitian to lose a pound a week, or even two pounds per month.
  • Use stevia, or other healthy sugar substitute in our coffee or tea.
  • March in place, or stretch during TV commercials.
  • Eliminate processed (pre-packaged) baked goods from our diet.
  • Spend the extra money necessary to buy whole grain breads.
  • Turn off the TV during mealtime to focus on the flavor and texture or our food.
  • Talk to our doctor about, or self-explore, ways to stop smoking.
  • Make sure a third to one-half our dinner plate is filled with low-starch veggies.

By making reasonable lifestyle changes, just one or two at a time, most of us can eventually boast healthy habits in at least three of the four biomarker areas (diet, exercise, body fat, and smoking). Doing this can help with today’s glucose numbers and prevent, or slow the progression of complications associated with diabetes.

Sources: Mayo Clinic Proceedings; Yahoo News
photo credit: versageek

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