Turning the Clock Back 14 Years

Turning the Clock Back 14 Years
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Four simple health behaviors may cut our risk of chronic disease by nearly 80%, potentially dropping our risk of dying equivalent to that of being 14 years younger.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 1903 Thomas Edison predicted that “[t]he doctor of the future [would] give no medicine, but [would instead] instruct [their] patient in the care of [the] human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease[s].” A hundred and one years later, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine was born. We still prescribe drugs when necessary, but our emphasis is based on the understanding that the leading causes of disability in the United States, and the leading causes of death, are caused mostly by lifestyle—particularly what we put in our mouth: food and cigarettes.

“An impressive number of studies have shown that lifestyle is the root cause of what ails us.” The good news, though, is that by changing our lifestyle, we can dramatically improve our health. We have the power.

For most leading causes of death, we’ve long known that our genes account for, at most,10 to 20% of risk, given the fact that rates of killers like heart disease and major cancers differ up to a hundred-fold among various populations, and that when people “migrate from low-[risk] to high-risk countries, their disease rates almost always change to those of the new environment.” For example, at least 70% of strokes and colon cancer are avoidable; “over 80%” of coronary heart disease; “over 90%” of type 2 diabetes, avoidable.

So, maybe it’s “time we stop blaming our genes, and focus on the 70%[-plus] under [our] control. That [may be] the real solution to the health care crisis.”

And, it doesn’t take much. “Adhering to [just] 4 simple healthy lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases.” Not smoking, not being obese, half-hour of exercise a day, and eating healthier—like more fruits, veggies, whole grains, less meat. Four simple things cut our risk of developing a chronic disease by 78%. 95% of disease risk, out the window; 80% of heart-attack risk, gone. Half of stroke risk, a third of cancer risk; simply gone. Think of what that means, in terms of the numbers. As it stands now, each year a million Americans experience their first heart attack or stroke; a million get diabetes; a million get cancer.

If we clean up our act, do we actually get to live longer, too? Well, the CDC followed about 8,000 Americans 20 years or older for about six years. They found that “three cardinal lifestyle behaviors exerted an enormous impact on mortality.” People “who do not smoke, consume a healthy diet, and engage in sufficient physical activity can substantially reduce their risk [of] early death.” And, by not smoking, they just meant “not currently smoking.” By “healthy diet,” they just meant in the top 40% in terms of complying with the rather wimpy federal dietary guidelines, and “physically active” meant averaging about 21 minutes a day, or more, of at least moderate exercise. Those that managed at least one of the three had a 40% lower risk of dying. Those that hit two out of three cut their chances of dying by more than half. And, those that scored all three flushed 82% of their chances of dying in those six years down the drain.

What does that mean in terms of how much longer we get to live? A similar study on health behaviors and survival didn’t just take people’s word on how healthy they were eating. They measured the level of vitamin C in people’s blood—as a “biomarker” for how many plants people were eating. And, the drop in mortality risk in those nailing all four healthy behaviors “was equivalent to being 14 [years] younger.” It’s like turning back the clock 14 years.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

In 1903 Thomas Edison predicted that “[t]he doctor of the future [would] give no medicine, but [would instead] instruct [their] patient in the care of [the] human frame in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease[s].” A hundred and one years later, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine was born. We still prescribe drugs when necessary, but our emphasis is based on the understanding that the leading causes of disability in the United States, and the leading causes of death, are caused mostly by lifestyle—particularly what we put in our mouth: food and cigarettes.

“An impressive number of studies have shown that lifestyle is the root cause of what ails us.” The good news, though, is that by changing our lifestyle, we can dramatically improve our health. We have the power.

For most leading causes of death, we’ve long known that our genes account for, at most,10 to 20% of risk, given the fact that rates of killers like heart disease and major cancers differ up to a hundred-fold among various populations, and that when people “migrate from low-[risk] to high-risk countries, their disease rates almost always change to those of the new environment.” For example, at least 70% of strokes and colon cancer are avoidable; “over 80%” of coronary heart disease; “over 90%” of type 2 diabetes, avoidable.

So, maybe it’s “time we stop blaming our genes, and focus on the 70%[-plus] under [our] control. That [may be] the real solution to the health care crisis.”

And, it doesn’t take much. “Adhering to [just] 4 simple healthy lifestyle factors can have a strong impact on the prevention of chronic diseases.” Not smoking, not being obese, half-hour of exercise a day, and eating healthier—like more fruits, veggies, whole grains, less meat. Four simple things cut our risk of developing a chronic disease by 78%. 95% of disease risk, out the window; 80% of heart-attack risk, gone. Half of stroke risk, a third of cancer risk; simply gone. Think of what that means, in terms of the numbers. As it stands now, each year a million Americans experience their first heart attack or stroke; a million get diabetes; a million get cancer.

If we clean up our act, do we actually get to live longer, too? Well, the CDC followed about 8,000 Americans 20 years or older for about six years. They found that “three cardinal lifestyle behaviors exerted an enormous impact on mortality.” People “who do not smoke, consume a healthy diet, and engage in sufficient physical activity can substantially reduce their risk [of] early death.” And, by not smoking, they just meant “not currently smoking.” By “healthy diet,” they just meant in the top 40% in terms of complying with the rather wimpy federal dietary guidelines, and “physically active” meant averaging about 21 minutes a day, or more, of at least moderate exercise. Those that managed at least one of the three had a 40% lower risk of dying. Those that hit two out of three cut their chances of dying by more than half. And, those that scored all three flushed 82% of their chances of dying in those six years down the drain.

What does that mean in terms of how much longer we get to live? A similar study on health behaviors and survival didn’t just take people’s word on how healthy they were eating. They measured the level of vitamin C in people’s blood—as a “biomarker” for how many plants people were eating. And, the drop in mortality risk in those nailing all four healthy behaviors “was equivalent to being 14 [years] younger.” It’s like turning back the clock 14 years.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

I discuss the role diet may play in preventing the 15 leading causes of death in my 2012 annual review video, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

How does your diet compare? Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score.

I go in depth on the exercise component in my next video, Longer Life within Walking Distance.

For more on slowing the aging process, see my videos:

For more on my chosen clinical specialty, lifestyle medicine, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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