Lifestyle choices can make a profound impact on optimal health. Many of us don’t realize the simple yet powerful steps we can take to prevent, improve and even reverse some of the most worrisome conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic syndrome. With CVD being among the leading causes of death in the United States for nearly a century, it goes without saying that heart health should be a priority. Unfortunately, we may be missing some critical tools to support our longevity in ways very much within our reach.
According to the research of James Yeh, MD, MPH, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and practitioner at Massachusetts General Hospital, “Nearly half of all premature deaths may be due to unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as insufficient exercise, poor diet, and smoking. These risk factors increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.” (2019) The flip side is that healthy lifestyle choices have been found to play a vital role in prevention of these same morbidity factors. According to a 2017 review, successful modification of lifestyle choices can reduce the relative risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk factors for CVD such as diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. (Masana, et al.)
The focus here is not to highlight unfavorable lifestyle choices that contribute to disease, but to point out ways we can challenge and change these choices to promote transformation. Positive lifestyle factors can include:
- Dietary interventions
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Minimizing alcohol use
- Smoking cessation.
Positive changes in lifestyle correlate to longer and healthier lives. We can do this in many ways and will be most impactful if we do them in the ways that are best for us. We can look at the best diets for our lifestyles, the best exercises for our bodies, and the best approaches for alleviating our own personal addictions. With a holistic approach we can take these factors into account, assess them, and focus on what makes the most sense for us. We can begin from there to not only take control of our health but of the lives we live.
Angela Mishler Salazar has a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health from the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where she is a Teaching Assistant for the Herbal Medicine Program. Her areas of focus include: Holistic Nutrition, Western Herbal Medicine, Natural Detoxification, Intuitive Healing, Empathetic Care, Lifestyle Approach
Masana, L., Ros, E., Sudano, I., Angoulvant, D., & lifestyle expert working group (2017). Is there a role for lifestyle changes in cardiovascular prevention? What, when and how?. Atherosclerosis. Supplements, 26, 2–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1567-5688(17)30020-X
Yeh, J., MD, MPH. (2019, November 2). Lifestyle changes to lower heart disease risk [Web log post]. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/lifestyle-changes-to-lower-heart-disease-risk-2019110218125