Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” You’ve also probably heard the phrase, “Prevention is the best medicine.” Both are age-old platitudes, but both are also rarely followed by the general population. Don’t believe it? The healthcare industry in America spent over $3.3 trillion in 2016. Many have even commented that our “healthcare” system is closer to a “disease-care” system.
According to the CDC, 86% of these costs come from chronic health conditions, most of which are preventable. Here are some of the more sobering statistics mentioned on the CDC website:
- In 2015, 50% of adults aged 18 years or older did not meet recommendations for aerobic physical activity. In addition, 79% did not meet recommendations for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity.
- More than 1 in 3 adults (about 92.1 million) have at least one type of cardiovascular disease.
- In 2015, more than 37% of adolescents and 40% of adults said they ate fruit less than once a day, while 39% of adolescents and 22% of adults said they ate vegetables less than once a day.
Our medical system has advanced considerably, but it tends to treat the sick, rather than prevent the sickness. Nutrition is the earth’s medicine; fruits are full of polyphenols that have beneficial health effects, namely by acting as an anti-oxidant. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are integral to our healthful survival. These things all help keep disease at bay, but if knowing the basic nutritional content of your food doesn’t make you want to make a dietary change, then perhaps knowing that food intake alters gene expression, meaning that it can either upregulate a health protective gene, or if your nutrition is poor, it can upregulate harmful genes, and lead to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases will change your mind.
Beyond “eating healthy” there is, of course, exercise. Movement is important! For example, walking for 30 min every day substantially decreases your risk of developing Type II Diabetes, which is when your body produces too much insulin. Exercise increases glut 4 receptors, which are responsible for getting sugar out of the blood. Less sugar in the blood means less insulin is being produced by your body!
Small changes like adding vegetables to every meal and walking 30 min a day can be the difference between perpetuating a chronic disease like Type II Diabetes, and possibly needing an amputation if it remains uncontrolled, or avoiding medication and other related health care costs in general. Preventing chronic diseases by altering your dietary intake or adding a small amount of exercise (something is always better than nothing) is your best bet for a long, healthy, functional life. After all, why bother saving for retirement if you can’t enjoy your off time? Eat well, exercise often, live long!
Elizabeth Foley is an FSU Ph.D. Candidate in Nutrition and Food Science. Posts and blogs created by Elizabeth on the Wealth Meet Health community are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of your relationship with a health professional. For personal health considerations, please consult a health professional directly.
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