How important is lifestyle at preventing chronic disease and premature death? The short answer is VERY! Take for example a 2007 special article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled, “We can do better – Improving the Health of the American People”. The special article first highlighted the health status of the United States in 2001 among 29 other developed countries, where the US ranked 25th in infant mortality, 22nd in maternal mortality, 23rd in female life expectancy from birth, 22nd for men.
The article continued to explore five important domains impacting our health (1) genetics (2) social circumstances (3) environmental exposures (4) behavioral patterns, and (5) healthcare. They then pointed out how medical care has a relatively minor role when it comes to impacting premature death:
As you can see, even if everyone in the United States had access to the very best medical care (which most Americans don’t), you would prevent only a small number of deaths. The greatest opportunity to reduce preventable deaths and improve health in our nation is through your own personal behavior, even more so than genetics. They pointed out obesity, physical inactivity and smoking as the most important behavioral causes of premature death.
Fast forward 12 years today, the US as a nation of people is sicker still, and medical care is more expensive with both trends heading in the wrong direction. Accounting for greater access to direct to consumer genetic data from companies like 23andMe, personal behavior that can take into account identified genetic predispositions can potentially be even more important than before.
Dr. David Katz, Director of Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine I believe put it well when writing about the leading causes of chronic disease that are, “in turn, attributable to the use of our feet (physical activity), forks (dietary pattern), and fingers (cigarette smoking). Feet, forks and fingers, lifestyle (behavioral patterns) is the most important factor towards preventing chronic disease, and premature death!
Healthier Clinic is an online physician directed lifestyle program recognized by the CDC, to help prevent chronic disease and help you become healthier, for those you love!