Fitness, Nutrition, and Your Health

165CLB_04_Fitness-Nutrition-HealthIt's important to take care of yourselfexercise regularly, eat healthfully, get enough sleep, and manage your stress levels. That's a no-brainer, right? While we know it's important, we don't always clearly see the true connection between healthy habits and the impact on our health and disease prevention. The connection between fitness, nutrition, and your health is significant.

A healthy, nutritious diet and regular exercise can help prevent or reduce your risk of a number of chronic health problems, including:

  • Heart disease: When the arteries transferring oxygen and nutrients to your heart get lined or blocked by plaque, it can lead to chest pain and heart attack. While it's important to talk to your doctor about your risk for heart disease, you can take some control through the food you eat and physical activity. It's recommended to consume a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-fiber foods. Fish is also recommended, specifically oily fish, such as salmon, trout, and tuna. The type of fat you choose to eat is key. Limit saturated fat like cheese, butter, bacon, red meat, cream and tropical oils. Avoid trans fat. Choose unsaturated fats like olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and their oils.  Regular exercise can also positively impact your risk for developing heart disease by helping you maintain a healthy weight and lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke in the United States. Studies have shown that a combination of the DASH eating plan and decreased salt intake can significantly reduce high blood pressure. See below for more information about the DASH eating plan. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, swimming, or cycling are the best exercises to help lower your blood pressure.
  • Obesity: Obesity results from consistently taking in more calories than the body uses each day. But limiting calories is not enough; obesity is now recognized as a complex disease. Eat consistent meals, balanced with lean protein, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and limit excess calories to help control hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. Healthy eating combined with regular exercise and physical activity are key factors in preventing obesity. This is especially important because being overweight or obese increases risk for several other chronic conditions.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can keep your body from producing and using insulin as it should. You are more likely to be diagnosed with type two diabetes if you are overweight or obese and are not physically active. Its prevention is largely based on healthy lifestyle behaviors and habits, including exercise and a healthy diet to promote weight loss.
  • Cancer: Healthy diet and exercise can reduce risk for a variety of cancers, including breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers. Fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods such as whole grains, can help reduce your cancer risk. Limiting red meats and avoiding processed meats is also recommended. Along with a healthy diet, try to get at least 30 minutes of general physical activity every day. When it comes to physical activity and exercise, more is better.
  • Osteoporosis: This is a weakening of the bones, which can cause bone fracture. It's common primarily among women and men older than 50, though it can also affect younger individuals. To reduce risk, eat plenty of low-fat dairy foods that are rich in calcium, and vitamin D, and fruits and vegetables loaded with magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. Weight training exercises can also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Talk with your primary care doctor to learn more about how you can be more active (safely) and eat healthier to prevent or reduce your risk of chronic conditions. If you already have chronic health conditions, your doctor can help you identify healthy habits to help you live better with these conditions.

DASHDietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension: This eating plan was developed specifically for lowering blood pressure, but is also a generally healthy diet that can help prevent other chronic conditions as well, such as heart disease. DASH is based on an eating plan consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, along with fish, poultry, nuts, and whole grains. The DASH eating plan significantly limits red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks.

Dietary Guidelines: The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. The publication provides eating and nutrition guidance through recommendations that are developed for disease prevention and health promotion. The nutrition guidance is based on the Dietary Guidelines. You can find more information at

Sources: Dietary Guidelines, Mayo Clinic, World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



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Last updated 5/8/2018