Published on February 12th, 2018 | by Deb Wolf0
Current prEvents February 10, 2018 Times Argus
A Guide to Improving Family Health
Would it surprise you to learn that over 50% of all deaths in Vermont are caused by just four diseases and that they are the result of only three behaviors? Those are the statistics behind the 3-4-50 message from the Vermont Department of Health.
The four diseases are cancer, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and lung cancer. Because these diseases are largely caused by the three behaviors of smoking, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition, these deaths are preventable.
Research has told us that Vermonters often think chronic disease is their “fate.” Their father died of a heart attack at age 50. Their sister has diabetes at 32. They see it as fate or predetermined, but often fail to see that their behaviors have significant impact on whether it becomes their future. In fact, genetics account for only 30% of disease risk. Our behaviors have much more influence on our health outcomes.
Let’s take smoking, which is behavior number one. Stopping tobacco use could prevent many lung diseases such as COPD, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and most cases of lung cancer. Most Vermonters who smoke would like to quit and many have tried, often several times. There are now more former smokers than smokers. The research tells us that it can take many tries before a person quits smoking. Each attempt counts! You gain knowledge you can use the next time and will ultimately help you reach your goal. The Vermont quit smoking program, 802 Quits, provides experienced and personalized coaching, free tips, tools and support, including free patches and gum or lozenges delivered directly to your home. Visit 802Quits.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get started.
Behavior number two, lack of physical activity, is a problem for many Vermonters. Almost half of adults and three fourths of youth in middle and high school do not get enough exercise, putting them at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. Even though Vermont is known for its recreational opportunities, our busy lives sometimes prevent us from taking advantage. The good news is physical activity can also be beneficial in small doses. Even a 15 minute walk or taking the stairs whenever possible can help. Limiting your family’s screen time and exercising together can increase quality family time as well. You say it’s too cold for walking outside? Just turn up the music and dance around the living room!
Hectic schedules may also be part of the reason almost 80% of us don’t eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables for good health. Poor nutrition is behavior number three. You can get started by picking up a bag of apples and some vegetables each week. Making homemade meals doesn’t have to be complicated. Kids can help prepare dinners which can be heathier, cheaper, and sometimes easier than packaged foods. Gardening is an excellent way to provide both nutritious foods and exercise for your family. Even without a lot of space, vegetables can be grown in flower pots on the porch or in a sunny window. If you need more ideas for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, visit one of the websites that provide tips, recipes and shortcuts like https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org or https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-tip-sheets. These tools can help get you started and are full of ideas.
Here are some ways to improve your family’s health. Encourage your child’s school to provide healthy foods whenever food is served. Encourage school authorities to eliminate unhealthy practices such as student access to soda machines, sweetened drinks, and sports drinks. Ask how much time is planned every day for physical activity; work with the school to assure that every student gets at least 30 minutes a day.
Work with your community planners to develop town plans that promote healthy living. Community bicycle and pedestrian paths and lanes should be encouraged and developed in all communities. Parks, open spaces and recreational facilities help to create a healthy environment for our citizens to enjoy. Workplaces can get assistance from the local Department of Health office to develop Worksite Wellness programs.
There is no end to the creative ways we can change the current 3-4-50 situation. As Vermonters, we take great pride in our quality of life, strong communities, natural places and commitment to healthy living. By changing just 3 behaviors, we can ensure that our state continues to be one of the healthiest and best places in the U.S. for all of us to live, work, and play.
Current PrEvents is produced by the Central Vermont New Directions Coalition in collaboration with the Washington County Youth Service Bureau, as part of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant from the Vermont Department of Health.
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