May 27, 2009
Healthy Lifestyles On Decline In United States

In recent decades scientists have developed much greater understanding of which lifestyle choices promote health. Yet in the face of this growing body of knowledge and efforts to publicize key findings the public at large increasingly adopts less healthy practices.

New York, NY, May 27, 2009 Despite the well-known benefits of having a lifestyle that includes physical activity, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, moderate alcohol use and not smoking, only a small proportion of adults follow this healthy lifestyle pattern, and in fact, the numbers are declining, according to an article published in the June 2009 issue of The American Journal of Medicine. Lifestyle choices are associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes.

Investigators from the Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston compared the results of two large-scale studies of the US population in 1988-1994 and in 2001-2006. In the intervening 18 years, the percentage of adults aged 40-74 years with a body mass index greater than 30 has increased from 28% to 36%; physical activity 12 times a month or more has decreased from 53% to 43%; smoking rates have not changed (26.9% to 26.1%); eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day has decreased from 42% to 26%; and moderate alcohol use has increased from 40% to 51%. The number of people adhering to all 5 healthy habits has decreased from 15% to 8%.

So much for the power of expert advice. If you follow all the best practices you are part of a dwindling minority.

In the last 5 years have you gotten better or worse at exercising, eating fruits, eating vegetables, getting enough sleep, and other health-promoting practices?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 May 27 12:10 AM  Aging Lifestyle Studies

odograph said at May 27, 2009 4:43 AM:

I think I'm good ... except for the fruits and vegetables. That one is really hard to do ... well, for a guy ... who has no innate desire for fruits or vegetables.

Fat Man said at May 27, 2009 4:47 AM:

"In the last 5 years have you gotten better or worse at exercising, eating fruits, eating vegetables, getting enough sleep, and other health-promoting practices?"

Yes, and I have gotten fatter too. So, there.

I will tell you what I tell my doctor, I am not fat because I am stupid. When the medicine men decide to treat obesity as a medical problem, rather than as part of their culture war against the hicks and lower classes, maybe they will start to get somewhere. Until then they will publish more self-congratulatory bull$#;+ like this.

no one said at May 27, 2009 6:20 AM:

In my mid 40's: Eat 11-12 fruits/veggie a day, sleep 7-8 hours a night, exercise 45-60 min's 5 days a week with 2 rest days, BMI at 28, drink 1-2 drinks every 2 weeks, but I smoke a touch less than a pack a day.

Sigh. Have been the correct diet since 1999, exercise since 2006, low drinking since 1995, and good body composition since 2007.

Smoke on and off since 6th grade school kid. Currently on my 15,361st quit smoking attempt.

philw1776 said at May 27, 2009 6:35 AM:

It's good news for us taxpayers if obese Americans get fater and die younger freeing up more than projected Social Security and Medicare money. A quick cardiac arrest as an artery closes shut is best, minimizing hospital care time and expense. The problem is the relatively healthy geezers on Medicare who consume decades of health care expense and social security payments at taxpayer cost.

David Govett said at May 27, 2009 8:08 AM:

Most people are ignorant of the fast-approaching health miracles of the Singularity. Once we become capable of preventing and reversing diseases and--dare we imagine?--aging itself, people will adopt more-careful lifestyles.

AZ Liberal said at May 27, 2009 8:49 AM:

The article makes it sound like the human race is on a self-chosen path to extinction. I don't see anything in current trends that suggests people will "adopt more-careful lifestyles".

Lono said at May 27, 2009 8:49 AM:


I think you are absolutely correct on that - and let us here resolve to use the rest of this year to get back on board with the health promoting lifestyle if we have in some way strayed.

People, I really think as a people we need to get back to the Hellenic ideal that intelligence must be manifest in both mind AND body - despite the fact that modern society has led many people into professions that over-emphasize the use of one over the other!

If intelligent, ambitious, individuals such as ourselves can apply this discipline now - it will allow us a unique advantage over the mediocracy of our current Plutocrats - perhaps even allowing them to be - over time - largely displaced by real men of understanding.

no one,

As an addictive personality I empathize with you - but seriously - if you can't throw off the regins of your corporate masters now - while you are still able bodied - then you might as well resign yourself to a future of disease, pain, and dis-function - because that is what your future holds - no matter what other health precautions you are taking.

kurt9 said at May 27, 2009 12:16 PM:

My wife and I eat well. I do weight training 4 times a week and cardio workout twice a week. I go hiking lots when the weather is good (I live in the Pacific Northwest). I have a "life-extension" regimen that consists of CoQ-10 (100mg per day), Carnosine (1000mg per day), Resveratrol (250mg per day), and the standard life extension mix (4-6 capsules per day). All of these I buy through the LEF (

I consider all of the above as part of my routine "self-maintenance" life-extension regime that is as much an instinctive part of my life as, say, brushing my teeth and managing my personal finances.

I fail to see why others do not do the same. I believe, at least in the developed countries, that 95% of all misery is self-inflicted. I consider the way most people live their lives to be irrational and I have no patience for their foibles and problems.

kurt9 said at May 27, 2009 12:28 PM:

BTW, I have a BMI that would classify me as "overweight" even though I have a "body builder" physique. I consider the BMI to be a fraud and an example of the laziness of the medical profession. A resistive tester that test body fat percentage is very cheap and easy to use. There is no excuse for every medical clinic to not have one of these.

I think "Fat Man" has a valid point about the MD's. The MD's are promoting a certain social culture that is not necessarily consistent with healthiness. For example, MD's tend to jog a lot and tend to be thin. You see very few MD's who are into weight training, even though weight training is far more effective for reducing fat than jogging.

I should also tell you that I do not put much credit to what MD's say. I have a friend who is very much into the Mercury/autism issue, who convinced me to try chelation with alpha lipoic acid (ALA). I did this for 18 months (from late '06 until spring of '08) and I can tell you that it has definitely improved my well-being. One positive effect is that my body fat has declined since then and that my body is as lean and tight as it was in my early 20's (I am 46). I believe much of the obesity epidemic is due to Mercury poisoning from Thimerisol. In other words, the MD's are inadvertently poisoning people.

The fact that ALA chelation has complete cured me of my asthma and allergies has convinced me that my friend is correct about these issues.

Mercer said at May 27, 2009 9:23 PM:

I increased consumption of peanuts and almonds two years ago. It has increased my HDL lipid levels.

Earlier this year I bought a pressure cooker and use it to cook dried beans and peas to eat instead of meat. I also use to eat more tough vegetables like kale and squash.

I have not had any medical tests since a I went from meat to beans so I can't say if it has my changed cholesterol levels. It has definitely lowered my grocery bills.

Paul F. Dietz said at May 28, 2009 6:43 AM:

For some reason, this thread reminded me of the Dave Barry book, "Stay Fit And Healthy Until You're Dead".

Texpatriate said at May 28, 2009 10:14 AM:

"I have not had any medical tests since a I went from meat to beans..."

But do you still have any friends?

sam said at May 28, 2009 10:24 AM:

Well, at least it gives people a forum to crow about their healthy lifestyles.

Bill Rost said at May 28, 2009 10:36 AM:

As for dietary recommendations:
Compare mortality rates over the past 20 years with those of your Great Grandparents era.
Consider your parents mortality, less gang wars, international incidents, communicable disease and accidents.
Grab a beer and a steak and sit back and enjoy. Next month the BMI, HDL/LDL and BP recommendations will change again, based on some other Epidemiologist's data dredge, along with all the other rent-seeking organizations promoting their "healthy lifestyle."

John Campbell said at May 28, 2009 10:40 AM:

Perhaps, just perhaps, the healthy lifestyle cited is not the healthy lifestyle of human beings designed through evolution to a vastly different food intake and activity pattern. A vastly different food and activity pattern than currently practiced by most people in the world, and certainly vastly different than that advocated by most current health care experts.

Perhaps we are damaging our bodies and our minds by ignoring the fact that our bodies and our minds were forged over 50,000 years ago and longer, leading a hunter gatherer existence.

Perhaps we can reclaim our health by pursuing a different lifestyle and eating that does not require willpower and enormous effort, but listening to our bodies and our evolutionary past.

It has worked for me and for many others in the Paleo, or Primal or Evolutionary Fitness community. The truth is out there and within our own bodies. I have nothing to sell - I am just suggesting that perhaps people are not lazy, stupid and lack willpower - just a suggestion.

I suggest Googling and discover some alternatives to the status quo, which FuturePundit clearly shows is not working. Give it a shot and see what you find. The human past may point the way to a much better future. Perhaps modern civilization, and health and vitality can coexist. Perhaps. Is it not possible?

PseudoBlonde said at May 28, 2009 10:52 AM:

Kurt9: I know exactly why people fail to do all that good stuff. It's hard to get started, and after a while it's a bore to keep it up. If you love the taste of fresh fruit, crisp veggies w/o butter or sauce (or salt), you're ahead of the game. For a lot of people, fitting an exercise regimen into the day is tough - even something as simple as a 30-minute walk. Going to the gym can be expensive, working out when you don't know what you're doing can be a waste of time, and doing the same routine day after day is - yawn! I've found a boot camp workout that changes things up constantly, so I've kept it up for nearly three years. Plain, fresh food tastes great to me - I'm lucky. Tried and tried to smoke as a kid but never got the hang of it - lucky again. It feels fabulous to be strong and fit at 58, but dang it, it's hard work, and I can see why people fall off the wagon. The key seems to be to get hooked on feeling healthy most of the time. Another incentive is knowing there will be no $$ for health care when I'm old, so better take care of the equipment now.

Dubyel said at May 28, 2009 11:05 AM:

Comparisons on alcohol consumption, exercise, etc. are fine (provided the respondents were honest), but I'm not buying the BMI comparison. Between the time of the first study and the time of the second, BMI guidelines were revised so that more people were considered obese. I remember news reports at the time using the example that under the new guidelines Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered obese. I generally have great respect for MUSC, but I don't see anything in the article to indicate that the same criteria were used for both studies. If they aren't comparing apples to apples, then the comparison is worthless and certainly not scientific.

leishman said at May 28, 2009 11:26 AM:

Speaking ever so smugly as one of those 8%-ers, I would question the premise of whether a longer life is necessary a better life. We humans are measuring creatures by nature, and, perhaps unfortunately, longevity and accumulated wealth seem to be the most obvious--but not necessarily the most valuable--parameters. A life of service, love, wisdom and compassion may be as full a life as can exist (cf. Randy Pausch) but it's hard to measure for research purposes. Conversely, poor health does not necessarily mean a joyless life--look at Christopher Reeve or Morrie Schwartz (of Tuesdays with Morrie)--but again, difficult to measure.
I'm 60+, stopped smoking 2+ years ago, stopped a 30-year Copenhagen habit several months ago, used to drink six Cokes a day and eat half a large Hershey's Symphony bar. I started going to the gym last November 3+ times a week. I'm down to a normal BMI of 25 (6'4", 203#), feel great, look great, only need 6 hours of sleep, and find fruit a perfectly acceptable and satisfying snack--just had to give it a chance and exert a little will power for several weeks. At this point I can't imagine ever returning to the old ways.
My point is that the biggest hurdle is mental, i.e., releasing the belief in inexorable physical decline and embracing the belief that the human body is capable of remarkable repair and restoration with the proper inputs. If the belief is clear, it is much easier for the appetites to fall into line.

TheAbstractor said at May 28, 2009 12:10 PM:

Second to the sentiments of Fat Man. More and more, it seems like all the suit-wearing professionals that I revered as a youth--doctors, lawyers, public officials, academians, etc.--seem to be a bunch of doofuses who make it all up as they go along and who have their thinking and actions heavily clouded by cavemen-like impulses: fear, pride, greed, the need to be right and the need to hate "the other", etc.

The older I get, the wiser a man Friedrich Nietizsche becomes.

kickedback said at May 28, 2009 12:33 PM:

"I have not had any medical tests since a I went from meat to beans so I can't say if it has my changed cholesterol levels."

Interesting. I did just the opposite seven years ago after reading Taubes' NYT mag article. Cut carbohydrate consumption by about three-quarters; no sugar, no grains, no legumes, no starchy vegetables and lost 28 pounds in five weeks. My blood lipid profile improved dramatically and I found the diet and reduced weight easy to maintain. In 2007 I read Taubes' book, was mightily impressed, reduced my carbs by half again and promptly lost another 10 pounds bringing my weight down to where it was three decades ago, when I was in my 20's.

Today, I eat under 60 net grams of carbohydrates a day, 10 servings of fruit and vegetables, 2200-2400 calories, BMI of under 18, walk daily, hike at least once a week, and feel great. Oh, and no smoking, no drinking.

beb said at May 28, 2009 1:09 PM:

I've recently found myself overseas with a circle of Americans/Canadians that are all obese. And all in their 20s. I'm pretty sure that odds are at least one won't make it to 40.

I don't want the government interfering in my choices in eating or smoking for that matter but every time I return to the states I am appalled at how many grossly obese people there are. When you go to Walmart all the electric carts are in use not by older people but by people too fat to walk around a store. That's insane.

So yeah, stay out of my life Uncle Sam but I have no sympathy for people who can't put the ding dongs down and take a walk but would rather whine about their hormonal issues.

hitnrun said at May 28, 2009 1:41 PM:

@TheAbstractor: I'd say it's not entirely your perspective changing, but the standards for those professions. Duty, responsibility, contributions to the community, and how one's profession related to those concepts used to be points of pride for most people who worked their way to a position of social importance. Even if they failed to live up to the ideal, the ideal was still there for the doctors doing the research, the journalists reporting it, and the lawyers making the policy. Now those professions have become much more agendized and cynical on average, to put it mildly.

Re: BMI. Yes, BMI is a bunch of absolutist, corner-cutting nonsense. It's hard to take physicians seriously when they use what's obviously going to end up being the 1990s version of the infamous "Food Pyramid."

And just to join in the self-disclosure, I was over 300 pounds 5 years ago and now am down to 210. So I'm definitely in the happy minority. I completely sympathize with those who can't do it however (or like to think I can). It really is a large psychological hurdle to overcome. Whichever diet or exercise program you pick, crossing the peak from the "nothing I do works" to "this *does* work, I just need to keep working" is quite a mental climb.

Joan Stephens said at May 28, 2009 2:45 PM:

Most of us look around us and see the facts. If we're content, have friends and family that we love and care for, and a job that provides, what we eat or how much we exercise will not extend our lives. I had one aunt who smoked 2 packs a day till she coughed blood at 70 and quit. She lived (and was sharp as a tack) till 93. Had another who lived on apple dumplings and desserts from 80 to 90. My mom was the youngest of 14 -- all of them were way overweight. All the girls lived past 90; 5 of six boys died between 75 & 80. One lived to 90 -- my Uncle Albert -- he was a hypochondriac and always thought he had a brain tumor because he got headaches. Took aspirin every night (and this was 40 years ago). Aspirin I believe in!

Thom York said at May 28, 2009 2:47 PM:

I think everyone should be forced to exercise by the federal government, say hiking, running or marching. All food should be rationed and only healthy food, fruits, nuts and vegetables should be allowed to be consumed by the masses, reserving meat for those in political leadership who need to be able to think clearly. Ciggies should be outlawed completely carrying heavy prison terms. Alcohol, weed, heroin and cocaine should flow freely however.

rightwingprof said at May 29, 2009 4:53 AM:

"scientists have developed much greater understanding"

No, not at all. Studies are no longer replicated, researchers fudge statistics, publish contradictory "studies," and in an environment where peer review has become a joke.

Teri Pittman said at May 29, 2009 10:05 AM:

"So yeah, stay out of my life Uncle Sam but I have no sympathy for people who can't put the ding dongs down and take a walk but would rather whine about their hormonal issues."

If you think this is caused by a lack of willpower, I'd suggest that you take a look at food labels. You'll discover how hard it is to avoid corn syrup. The stuff is in EVERYTHING, including lunchmeat. The extreme obesity you mention corresponds exactly with the time that corn syrup became widely used. The other problem is all those processed grains. I'm convinced that the stuff messed up your metabolism. When I go low carb,it's the only time I can lose weight. Exercise doesn't do it for me.

kickedback said at May 29, 2009 1:25 PM:

"You'll discover how hard it is to avoid corn syrup. The stuff is in EVERYTHING"

Whole foods do not contain HFSC. Processed foods often do. If your point is that fat people are sugar/carb addicts, I agree.

"When I go low carb,it's the only time I can lose weight. Exercise doesn't do it for me."

No illusions here on the efficacy of exercise in weight reduction. Most of my weight gain occurred in my early 40's, after I started running.

Mthson said at May 30, 2009 11:18 PM:

I mostly just eat mixed raw vegetables with a small amount of mixed nuts and lean meat. Pretty simple. Meal prep time is negligible.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright