Fri, 07/08/2016 - 12:21pm
With the incidence of chronic disease becoming more prevalent every day, many people have come to believe that medical problems are inevitable as they age. Chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and heart disease cause a tremendous financial burden for society, and they represent some of the world’s most common causes of death.
But chronic disease also is largely preventable. With the right changes to diet and physical activity levels, many people can significantly increase their chances of preventing chronic disease. Within different population age groups, medical experts recommend specific steps for improving long-term health prospects.
Children and Teens
In childhood and adolescence, healthy eating plays a vital role in development and growth, and it can help reduce the risks that a child will develop chronic problems like dental decay, osteoporosis, obesity and iron deficiency later in life, the Centers for Disease Control notes.
Experts recommend that children over age 2 eat a diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Children, adolescents and adults also are advised to limit their intake of potentially harmful substances, including:
- Solid fats, which are significant sources of trans fatty acids and saturated fats
- Added sugar
- Refined grains
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children should participate in a variety of age-appropriate physical activities that add up to 60 minutes or more every day. Aerobic activities — including brisk walking or running — should constitute most of the physical activity time. However, on at least three days each week, children also should participate in some activities like push-ups or gymnastics to strengthen muscles.
Most chronic diseases begin to show symptoms in adulthood, so it’s an important time for reducing risks like obesity, lack of physical activity, cholesterol, tobacco use, high blood pressure and consumption of alcohol.
Recent studies have documented the relationship between certain medical conditions — including some cancers, macular degeneration, diabetes, kidney stones and others — and diet. The evidence suggests a number of steps adults can take to aid in chronic disease prevention:
- Eating generous portions of fruits and vegetables, and ensuring that folic acid intake is adequate for pregnant women
- Eating more unsaturated fats — including omega-3 fatty acids — instead of saturated fats and trans fats
- Choosing high-fiber whole grains
- Limiting excess calories from all sources
- Limiting excess sugar consumption
- Limiting sodium
Exercise also plays a critical role in health and fitness promotion for adults. Regular physical activity helps adults stay at a healthy weight, and it lowers the risk of a number of chronic medical conditions, including breast cancer and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, depression, osteoarthritis, erectile dysfunction and others.
Even walking for just 30 minutes a day confers benefits, research has found, but adults can reduce their health risks further by exercising for longer durations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 60 minutes of activity that is moderate to vigorous in intensity on most days.
Of all population age groups, senior adults are most affected by chronic diseases. Americans live longer than ever, but maintaining a high quality of life requires effective maintenance of chronic conditions.
To stay healthy, seniors should focus on eating a nutritious diet, participating in regular physical activity, losing weight and avoiding smoking. In addition, adequate social and intellectual stimulation play an important role in healthy aging.
Proper nutrition is critical for managing a range of chronic health problems, including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and high blood pressure. In addition to following general nutritional guidelines for adults, the National Institutes of Health advises that seniors should: avoid empty calories with little nutrition, including chips and sodas; choose foods that are low in cholesterol and fats; and choose a wide variety of nutritious foods.
Although physical activity levels tend to decline with age, staying active is important for healthy aging. Targeted exercises can help seniors reduce specific problems with weakness and lower the risk of overall decline in function. Experts recommend training in balance, flexibility and strength, including resistance exercises to help maintain muscle tone.
Cardiovascular exercise like walking for at least 30 minutes a day three or more days per week also has proven benefits for seniors wishing to reduce or avoid chronic diseases.
Help Others Avoid Chronic Disease
Are you passionate about preventive health care? By choosing the Health and Fitness Promotion area of concentration in the Master of Science in Health and Human Performance at University of the Cumberlands, you’ll gain a thorough understanding of strategies for preventing chronic diseases. In the MSHHP program, you’ll also learn intervention skills that allow you to teach people in all age groups how to stay healthy. To find out more, please contact us.