What illnesses are the most common, costly, and preventable in our nation and other industrialized countries?
In the U.S., as of 2010, 86% of the nation’s $2.7 trillion annual health care expenditures were for people with chronic and mental health conditions. By 2017, that had increased to 90% of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs.
And heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic respiratory illnesses lead the list.
But health experts say those chronic illnesses also are among the most preventable. That’s because their primary risk factors are unhealthy behaviors that can be changed.
Four of these health risk behaviors—lack of exercise or physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and drinking too much alcohol—cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the World Health Organization says it’s the same elsewhere in the developed world.
Chronic Disease Risk Factors
So what do we need to change to reduce that risk?
A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education lists factors that contribute to chronic disease:
- Poor diet and body fat
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use
- Mental illness
- Poor medication adherence
- High alcohol consumption
- Excess salt intake
These point to a need for better health habits and lifestyle changes. But making those changes feels like it’s easier said than done, doesn’t it? Often we feel we take a step forward and then two steps back. It seems difficult to make these changes on our own.
If any of these seem like a place you need extra help – so that you can live your best life – you may benefit from working with an integrative health coach. A coach partners with a client to help create new, healthier behaviors that can reduce risk factors.
Other Approaches to Reduce Chronic Disease
The 2015 study in the Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education called for a multi-faceted effort to reduce chronic disease:
- Increase government policy and regulation
- Improve physical environments to make it easier to access healthy food and physical activity
- Value community-based health initiatives
- Install workplace wellness programs
- Use technology to help change behaviors
These initiatives could help reduce chronic disease risks. But implementing them may take some time. How much time do you have?
If you’re ready to take some steps on your own, here’s where to start:
- Move your body regularly – 30 minutes per day, at least five days per week. Break it up into shorter segments if necessary.
- And maintain a healthy weight.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Plus, consume moderate or no alcohol.
- And don’t smoke.
Which of these is your greatest challenge? If you need accountability partners to stay the course, or simply some help to get started, consider enlisting the help of a friend and/or a professional. The bigger team you can build around you, cheering you on, the more likely you will be to make and sustain changes. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can read more about integrative health coaching here and contact me to set up an initial session.
I’m cheering you on to your best health.
I’m Amy Hoogervorst, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. Thanks for joining me for Step 18 in the “31 Steps to a Healthier You” series, part of #Write31Days 2017. You can read what the series is all about here and catch up on past posts. If you don’t want to miss a thing, subscribe to get each one in your inbox.