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Study Suggests that Less than 3% of Americans Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

A recent study suggests that only 2.7% of the American adult population is meeting all four elements that researchers say are necessary for a healthy lifestyle. The four elements they used were a healthy diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage, and being a non-smoker.


Participants in the study included 4,745 people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Physical activity was measured with an accelerometer, with a goal of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week; body fat was measured with sophisticated X-ray absorptiometry; healthy diet was defined as being in the top 40% of people who ate the foods recommended by the USDA.


The researchers compared the healthy lifestyle requirements with biomarkers of cardiovascular health, including blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, C-reactive protein levels, fasting triglycerides, homocysteine, and other factors that contribute to cardiovascular health.


While many of the participants achieved at least one, if not more, of the four healthy lifestyle goals, very few achieved all four. Specifically, 71% of the participants did not smoke, 38% ate a healthy diet, 10% had a normal body fat percentage, and 46% were sufficiently active. People with a normal body fat percentage were most likely to have healthy levels of HDL and total cholesterol. Women were more likely to not smoke and eat a healthy diet, but they were less likely to be active. Mexican-American adults were more likely to eat a healthy diet than non-Hispanic white or black adults. Finally, adults older than 60 were less healthy than adults between the ages of 20 and 39 but were less likely to smoke, more likely to consume a healthy diet, and less likely to be sufficiently active.


The researchers found that having three or four of the healthy lifestyle factors was associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk biomarkers. Having one or two of the healthy lifestyle goals was associated with better levels of some biomarkers, when compared with having none of the four.


Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Mississippi conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 21, 2016, in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.


Three of the factors that the researchers in this study examined have to do with maintaining a healthy weight. Each year, obesity causes approximately 300,000 premature deaths in the United States.  The negative health effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.


Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity.  It is recommended that we eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  It also recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day.

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