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Adding quality of life to your years

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

At a recent gathering, one of my friends commented that healthy living will add only a few extra years to life, so why bother? My response was that I don’t worry so much about the length of my life, but that I want to feel good for all of the years that I am alive. 

We all probably know someone in poor health who has still managed to live a long life. They might deal with pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, or some other debilitating condition related to their illness. Maybe they struggle to pay medical bills, or have difficulty finding the money to pay for prescription medications. They might also suffer emotionally from the pressures of dealing with the physical and financial realities of their illness.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of health care dollars spent in the United States go toward treatment of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases and conditions include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. These conditions are the leading causes of premature death. They can also result in disability, poor quality of life and big medical bills.  

What you might not realize is that many of these chronic diseases and conditions can be prevented by changing behaviors and the choices we make related to our lifestyle.  

The CDC has identified four primary behaviors that damage our health and increase our risk for disease:

• Lack of exercise or physical activity

• Poor nutrition

• Tobacco use

• Drinking too much alcohol

Not all illnesses can be prevented, but you can improve your odds of remaining healthy and avoiding disease by:

• Exercising 30 minutes each day and avoiding sitting for long periods of time

• Choosing whole, fresh, unprocessed foods that nourish and sustain your body. Furthermore, check with your doctor to find out what is a healthy weight for you, and try to achieve it and maintain it. In addition to overall weight, measure your waistline. Women should strive for a waist measurement of fewer than 35 inches; for men it should be fewer than 40. 

• Not smoking 

• Limiting alcohol to no more than one drink per day (women) or two drinks per day (men)

All of our lives will end at some time. Whether yours will be shorter or longer than most, do whatever you can to make sure that it is happy and healthy up to the end.  

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