A study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine supports the same old lessons we should already know. This very large study looked at 23,000 people and their adherence to four simple lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet [fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and limited amounts of meat], and maintaining a healthy weight [BMI <30]). In those adhering to these behaviors, 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes, and 36% of all cancers were prevented. To no surprise, the authors of this study concluded that lifestyle should be the new medicine in preventing disease.
Let’s contrast this approach with our current healthcare model. Most of healthcare is based on treating risk factors or symptoms. To prevent heart disease, we treat the high blood pressure or high cholesterol thought to be a risk factor to the heart. The treatment generally consists of medications for a lifetime. Why must we take these for the rest of our life? The reason is because the true cause of poor lifestyle is never addressed or modified. Similarly, we spend over a hundred billion dollars every year on angioplasty and bypass surgeries, yet according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, these procedures prolong life in less than 5% of the participants who receive them. But in 2004, The Lancet found that lifestyle changes prevented at least 90% of heart disease!
Lifestyle modification is the only effective and true healthcare reform. These four disease-preventing download parallel space behaviors should not come as a surprise to anyone and we cannot expect our doctors to do this for us – this is an inside-out job. If changing all four of these seems impossible or overwhelming, go after just one of these healthy behaviors for now. Any step you take now will pay huge dividends in the future.