Why Americans Don't Follow 5 Basic Health Rules to Avoid Chronic Disease

The older we all get, the more we begin to realize that we are not invincible and our bodies require constant work and awareness to keep healthy. Though, a recent study by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) showed that less than 7% of Americans were practicing all five of the basic health behaviors that lower the risk of chronic disease. The basic behaviors are:

  1. girl-smokingNot smoking
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Avoiding alcohol consumption or only drinking in moderation
  4. Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  5. Getting a sufficient amount of sleep

According to the CDC, avoiding these behaviors contribute to some of the most common and costly chronic diseases such as stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In 2012, about half the US – 117 million people – had at least one chronic health condition. Yikes.

The survey contacted 400,000 people over the age of 21 all across the United States to find that 6.3% of people regularly practiced all five behaviors. 24.3% regularly practiced four of the five. 35.4% regularly practiced three of the five. 24.3% regularly practiced two, and 8.4% regularly engaged in just one of the five behaviors.

Related: 5 Things You Need To Know If You Want To Quit Smoking

To map this geographically, a large majority of those who practiced 3 or more of the five behaviors were living in the West Coast where health trends are on full blast. Looking at the big picture, it might seem simple to merely follow 5 basic principles. But why is it that so few of us do?

Primary Care Provider in Los Angeles Dr. Daniel Pio sees these patients regularly mentions that decisions about our health so easily become “in the moment” decisions.

overweight-boy“We know people are unhealthy,” Pio says. “Health, just like everywhere else in life, is much easier to think of in terms of now. It’s always someone else who is going to have a heart attack in 20 years from the lifestyle decisions you make today. It’s always someone else, that is, until it’s you.”

With the demands of our lives, we many times only have the energy to do what’s easy and things that ease our stress. Those things can so easily become getting into the habit of eating addictive and unhealthy foods that are cheap and quickly available. It can be a lack of knowledge on what healthy food is. It can be the expense of healthy foods. It can be over-drinking, inability to quit smoking. Changing behavior comes down education and filling our stress releivers with healthier alternatives.

Related: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection

Our society demands a lot from us. Though, as UCLA physical therapist Juliana Plank put it in our piece Sitting is the New Smoking, you have to be able to look at the big picture and weigh what’s more important.

“If you choose to ignore your body, then what’s the trade off? And, is it really worth it?” Plank says, “Whether it’s more money or more work, are you really getting something that’s better than your health? Probably not. You only have one body.”