Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthy Lifestyles Are 'In' - Magic Bullets Are 'Out'

/PRNewswire/ -- Though years ago everyone was looking for the "magic bullet," or one habit that would reduce the risk of chronic disease, scientific researchers today recognize that it is the combination of many lifestyle factors -- including things such as eating a healthy diet, using dietary supplements and exercising regularly -- that will keep individuals healthy. Two recently released studies -- as well as the "Life...supplemented" consumer education program -- are helping to spread the word to consumers that an overall healthy lifestyle approach is the best way to be healthy and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine(1) this week found that individuals who followed four healthy lifestyle habits -- including never smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a healthy diet -- together reduced their risk of developing the most common and deadly chronic diseases by as much as 80 percent. Specifically, the four factors were associated with a 93 percent reduced risk of diabetes, 81 percent reduced risk of heart attack, 50 percent reduced risk of stroke and 36 percent reduced risk of cancer.

Similarly, a study published at the end of July in the Journal of the American Medical Association(2), looked at a combination of healthy lifestyle choices in regards to hypertension and found that women with six healthy lifestyle habits -- including having a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, a daily mean of 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, a high score on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, modest alcohol intake, use of nonnarcotic analgesics less than once per week, and intake of 400 micrograms/day or more of supplemental folic acid -- resulted in a nearly 80 percent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure, which can often lead to heart attack, stroke, and other chronic diseases.

Clearly healthy habits and chronic disease prevention go hand in hand, but it's also important to point out that one healthy habit may influence other healthy habits. A 2008 survey fielded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition(3) found that those consumers who take vitamins and other dietary supplements are more likely than non-users of supplements to also try to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, visit their doctor regularly and get a good night's sleep.

"Consumers who engage in one healthy habit are likely to engage in many healthy habits as part of their overall preventative lifestyle approach," said Douglas MacKay, N.D., vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, CRN. "One theory for this is that the discipline required to engage in one healthy habit influences other daily health decisions."

What this means for consumers

"These studies are good news for consumers because they reiterate that there are many small things that individuals can do that will have big impacts on their overall health and wellness," said William Cooper, M.D., medical director of cardiovascular surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Emory University and advisor to the "Life...supplemented" campaign. "I think that many healthcare professionals would agree that healthy habits such as eating a healthy diet, taking your daily vitamins, exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough sleep are part of a healthy lifestyle that helps maintain health and prevents chronic disease."

Dr. Cooper encourages individuals to visit www.lifesupplemented.org and take My Wellness Scorecard, a free, on-line health assessment that will ask visitors to answer 36 questions about the healthy (or not so healthy) lifestyle choices they are making including their diet, use of dietary supplements and physical activity. After the brief online questionnaire, respondents find out immediately if they are an AlphaWELL, extremely proactive about overall health; WELL, often focused on and proactive about health; WannabeWELL, recognize the importance of taking care of themselves, but sometimes find it difficult to follow through; or an OhWELL, who may need to improve their healthy lifestyle choices in most categories.

Individuals will also find easy-to-follow tips to improve their wellness profile; interesting facts about high-profile members of the "Life. . .supplemented" Wellness Cohort; a reference guide to dietary supplements; articles relating to the three pillars of health; and information about general health and wellness.

"I've had many of my patients take My Wellness Scorecard, print out the results, and bring it back to me so that we can engage in a discussion about how to improve their overall health and wellness," said Dr. Cooper, who personally takes and recommends dietary supplements including a multivitamin, fish oil, and fiber for good heart health. "I'd much rather see my patients improve their health than have to come to me for heart problems later in life. I'd like nothing better than to put myself out of business, by encouraging healthier habits."

(1) Ford E, Bergmann M, et al. Healthy Living is the Best Revenge: Findings from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition -- Potsdam Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(15):1355-1362.

F(2) Forman J, Stampfer M, et al. Diet and Lifestyle Risk Factors Associated With Incident Hypertension in Women. JAMA. 2009;302(4):401-411.

(3) 2008 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements available at www.crnusa.org.

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