Lifestyle and Health – many aspects of lifestyle influence health. Among the most significant are
- cigarette smoking and other tobacco use
- diet and nutrition
- physical activity and exercise
- occupational health risks
- WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT and OBESITY
- seat belt and helmet use
- SAFER SEX PRACTICES
The correlations between lifestyle behaviors and health conditions are both direct and indirect and often intertwined. Numerous research studies show conclusively, for example, that cigarette smoking is a direct cause of CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE (CVD), LUNG CANCER, CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD), laryngeal CANCER, and STOMACH CANCER and a contributing cause to numerous other cancers and diseases. Scientists and researchers know, too, that OBESITY is a clear factor in health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and DIABETES. Furthermore, diabetes is one of the leading causes (along with cigarette smoking and obesity) of cardiovascular diseases such as HYPERTENSION (high BLOOD PRESSURE), PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE (PVD), and CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD).
Researchers also know that diet and nutrition are key factors in healthy body function as well as in disease states. Some diseases result directly from nutritional deficiencies, such as pernicious ANEMIA (vitamin B12 deficiency, which can occur from dietary insufficiency or due to MALABSORPTION disorders, PEPTIC ULCER DISEASE, or GASTRECTOMY). Researchers continue to investigate the ways in which nutritional and dietary factors contribute indirectly to health conditions, particularly with respect to the disease-fighting potential of antioxidants. Cancer researchers have made connections between the body’s ability to fight off cancer and dietary habits such as eating 9 to 12 servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
Health conditions may also affect EATING HABITS, with further consequence for health and wellbeing. People who have LACTOSE INTOLERANCE, for example, cannot consume dairy products, the most common source of calcium and vitamin D. It is important for them to obtain these nutrients through other foods and through supplements. Some medications may require dietary restrictions. For example, people who take monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications, prescribed to treat DEPRESSION and occasionally to treat PARKINSON’S DISEASE, cannot eat foods such as cheeses and smoked meats that contain the amino acid tyramine. Health conditions may also limit what a person can eat; for example, a person who has CELIAC DISEASE (sprue) cannot eat foods that contain gluten.
Physical inactivity has come under intense scrutiny from health experts in recent years as more evidence emerges to connect physical activity with health and sedentary habits with disease. Though scientists do not fully understand the myriad ways in which exercise affects cell activity, they know that it increases INSULIN sensitivity and results in overall improved metabolic efficiency. In a sense, regular physical activity seems for the body like a tune-up is for a car—it keeps it running as smoothly as possible. Health experts urge people to get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical exercise, such as walking, every day.
The correlations between lifestyle and health take on particular relevance in the context of the aging of the American population. As people are living longer, QUALITY OF LIFE becomes an increasingly significant focus. Advances in medical technology now allow routine treatments for conditions that only a few decades ago were deadly. Thrombolytic medications can halt and even reverse HEART ATTACK and STROKE due to blood clots. ORGAN TRANSPLANTATION extends the promise of normal life to thousands of Americans. Prosthetic joints restore movement when arthritis or injury destroys joints and bones. Yet within the framework of these advances remains the reality that individual health is an individual responsibility. Medical science can fix quite a lot but the way in which a person chooses to protect the functions and structures of his or her body plays a significant role in health.
See also COENZYME Q10; OBESITY, HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF; OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY; SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE (STD) PREVENTION; SMOKING AND HEALTH.