Evidence That Early, Healthy Habits Pay Off

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • Are you one who thinks life is made for living, and that "living" means eating whatever you want and not exercising? That healthier habits can come later on, when you really "need" to start worrying about what you eat/don’t eat, how you move/don't move your body? That our younger selves, our younger bodies, don't require (or really benefit as much from) healthy efforts because our metabolisms are so good/we are so vibrant?


    If this strikes a chord with you, here's a new study that might change your viewpoint a little: Recent research tells us that being fit in your teen years is linked to a lower risk of a heart attack in middle age.

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    The researchers took a look at a group of 743,498 men to assess physical fitness at age 18 and subsequent risk of myocardial infarction. At a median follow-up of 34 years, one standard deviation increase in fitness level in late adolescence correlated with an 18 percent reduction in risk of heart attack. The risk reduction was greatest for men with normal-weight body mass index numbers.


    Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in our country. Further, signs and symptoms of CVD have been identified at increasingly younger ages - even seen in adolescence. This study gives us evidence that the reverse can also be true: Healthier habits in our teens years can set us up favorably for better heart health later in our lives.


    But hold up: I am definitely not saying that if you weren't an active teen, it's too late. On the contrary: It is never too late to work towards a healthier lifestyle. There are always more gains to be obtained through healthier choices and "tweak-ups" - no matter how old you are, how many years of less-than-healthy living are under your belt, and how severe the unhealthy choices have been. You can always turn it around.


    What I am saying is that this research adds to the evidence that the healthy choices we make matter and can have long-lasting benefits over the course of our lives. If you are a teen, or you are a parent or grandparent of a teen (or will be), this is fuel for your encouragement of healthy choices. Even if genes and young metabolism are working in one's favor, the seen and unseen, short-term and long-term effects are being set in motion.


    This is also prime time to remind each other of the importance of modeling good behavior. It's not enough to talk the talk - it is critical to back up the verbal messages with actions. Role-modeling healthy habits - for you and for your loved ones.


    Dr. Cindy Haines is a 70.3 yogi, dedicated to advancement of better health via self-empowerment. For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.

Published On: January 14, 2014