The State of Illinois recently released the Chronic Disease Burden Update from the Division of Chronic Disease and Control. The update reports that compared the to rest of the nation, prevalence of chronic diseases and risk factors for acquiring chronic diseases in Illinois are not much different from the rest of the nation. Even so, the picture is not pretty.
Illinois residents tied with the rest of the nation at 77% of the population when it comes to eating an unhealthy diet. (An unhealthy diet for this report is defined eating less than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day). Over 37% of Illinoisians’ have high cholesterol, 28% of us are obese, 27% have high blood pressure, 25% are physically inactive, and 17% smoke.
These and other chronic diseases have a cascading effect. For example, smoking, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These in turn, increase the risk of certain cancers and diabetes. Of those diagnosed with coronary artery disease:
- 49% are physically inactive
- 84% eat an unhealthy diet
- 74% are overweight
- 73% have high blood pressure
- 74% have high cholesterol
Over 56% of diabetics are physically inactive, eat an unhealthy diet (80%),are overweight/obese (86%), have high blood pressure (67%) and have high cholesterol (63%). See a pattern here? Chronic diseases kill us, accounting for seven out of ten deaths.
Ouch! Sometimes the truth hurts. These are really not individual diseases – they are, for the most part, indicative of an unhealthy lifestyle. The good news is we can do something about it. You deserve to put your health first and foremost. This means making a conscious effort of eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. An impossible task you say? Make it fun. Visit the local farmers’ markets. It is a great activity to take the kids to and can be a lesson on where our food comes from. Together decide what you want to try. Talk with the vendors. They are most willing to answer your questions about what they have grown and can offer ideas of ways to prepare the food. Still too much to take on at once? Work on just one goal at a time and start small, ie, I will eat two vegetables a day, I will replace the afternoon bag of chips with a piece of fruit, I will go for a 10 minute walk – you set the goal.
Improving our health habits means enjoying a better quality of life and relief on our healthcare checkbook. You have nothing to lose (but weight) by tackling one unhealthy habit at a time. You can do it! Don’t give up. Get the family involved. Soon you will see some real progress.