We know that the main causes of disease and ill-health in the United States are heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, disabilities and mental health problems. However, we also know that Americans are now becoming more health-aware than ever before and many are taking steps to make positive changes in their lifestyles.
There are now fewer smokers than there were in the 1990s. Not only does smoking contribute to cases of heart disease, it is also one of the main causes of lung cancer and stomach cancer. Healthier lifestyles are also helping with declines in cholesterol levels and more of us are now using our spare time to try activities such as walking or visiting the gym.
For the many people who are overweight or obese, more calories enter the body than are used by the body and this causes excess calories to be stored as fat. This is why increased levels of activity are important. Going for a ten-minute walk every day is exercise. Not only does exercise help with weight loss, it also strengthens muscles in the body and improves heart and lung function. Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain and these endorphins work like a natural ‘Prozac’ making us to feel better. For those who lose weight, it is also important to continue with healthy eating and exercise as this helps to keep excess weight off.
There is plenty of information out there on healthy eating and there are recipes available to suit all tastes, cooking skills and budgets. Not only is how much food we eat, or the quantity of food, important in losing or maintaining a healthy weight, our diet also needs to be ‘balanced’. This means that we should be eating lower fat meals and around a third of our daily diet should contain fruit and vegetables. These contain important molecules such as vitamins that help the body to not only carry out its functions properly, but also assist in fighting disease and ill-health.
Drug abuse remains common among all ages, including teenagers and the use of drugs has a serious impact on healthy lifestyles. Drugs such as MDMA, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines affect not just individuals but also those around them. Data from 2010 shows that students from as low as eighth grade have used crack, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine and non-prescribed Ritalin and Adderall. Some people also abuse drugs such as alcohol and tobacco as well as prescription drugs
For many people alcohol is something to enjoy on a night out, or as the odd glass of wine with a meal, but for others, alcohol can become a problem. Alcohol not only causes long-term health problems, it can increase the risks of injuries and even death from accidents. Alcohol is a factor in around 50% of severe trauma injuries as well as 40% of motor vehicle accidents, suicides and falls.