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Health Depends Largely on Lifestyle

A simple word that encapsulates both of these concepts is “lifestyle.” The good news is that even though we cannot change our genetics, we can change our lifestyle. Those lifestyle choices can prevent or forestall the development of diseases for which we are genetically predisposed. Regarding the most common diseases, Dr. Lamont Murdoch of Loma Linda University School of Medicine has put it aptly: “faulty genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

I have often wondered why people take better care of their cars than their bodies. I have yet to meet a person who said, “God has a plan as to when my car should ‘die,’ and I do not need to worry about it. I don’t need to check or change the oil, or perform any routine maintenance. And I don’t need to worry about the type of gasoline I use.” We recognize the necessity of proper care to get the longest life and best performance out of our automobiles. When will we realize that proper care also gives our bodies the longest life and best performance?

What are the root causes of death? When someone dies with a heart attack, stroke, or other fatal condition, what really caused that fatal disease at that time in a person’s life? Researchers McGinnis and Foege recently analyzed the root causes of what Americans die from and published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The nine leading causes of death were largely related to lifestyle choices: what we put into our bodies and what we do with our bodies. These causes are listed for the year 1990 in Figure 1: Underlying Factors that Caused Death in the U.S. (1990).(1)

All of the factors with asterisks are directly impacted by lifestyle. The total of these factors is about 1.25 million, which is over half of the total number of deaths in America each year. We see that the root causes of death are largely unhealthful lifestyles. As surprisingly high as this total is, it may greatly underestimate the total number of lifestyle-related deaths. Many deaths due to infectious diseases are caused by an immune system that is weakened by a poor lifestyle. Also, the researchers listed only the deaths that could be attributed to known lifestyle factors. As we continue to learn more about lifestyle and health, we likely will discover how other lifestyle choices could prevent still more deaths. Nonetheless, the figures demonstrate that the number of premature deaths in our country would be dramatically decreased if Americans would be willing to replace all of their harmful lifestyle factors with helpful ones.

There would be benefits even beyond the reduction in premature deaths. Quality of life would improve, as diseases would strike less frequently at any given age. You can help to change these statistics by joining the growing number of Americans who are focusing on healthy lifestyle choices to attain the highest quality of life and optimal longevity.

Prevention is the Key

Today, a wealth of scientific research has confirmed that most of the leading causes of death are preventable. The most common afflictions that cause death in America are listed in Figure 2: The Ten Leading Afflictions that Caused Death in the U.S. (1995).(2)

C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D, former Surgeon General of the United States, produced the first Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health in 1988. It was based on an exhaustive review of the scientific literature. He concluded that “dietary excess and imbalance” contributed significantly to eight of the leading killer diseases in our country. Excerpts from his report are shown in Figure 3: Dietary Excess and Imbalance Cause Much Disease and Death.(3)

Note: all figures and footnote references (as denoted in parenthesis) are available in the text of Dr. Nedley's book Proof Positive.