Did you know that very few American adults meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle? In fact, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score for the study’s standard for healthy living (the study listed 4 basic criteria for healthy living). 13.8% met three of the criteria and 34.2% met two.
How do you stack up with the study’s criteria? According to WebMD, the 4 criteria were:
- Maintains a healthy body weight (BMI of 18-25)
- Eats at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- Exercises at least 5 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each day
Why Are These Factors Important?
Not only are the listed factors important for a healthy life, but they are also relevant for pain management. Let’s take a look:
Importance of Not Smoking
Smoking is extremely harmful to the body. Each year, 480,000 Americans die from illnesses related to tobacco use. This means 1 in 5 deaths are due to smoking. Smoking can even shorten your life by a decade.
Smoking affects almost every organ and can directly cause a number of diseases. Here are a few areas of the body that are affected by smoking:
- Lungs: Smoking damages the airways and air sacs in the lungs. Smoking can cause many lung diseases, including Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, pneumonia, asthma, and cancer.
- Brain: Smoking can increase your risk of having a stroke in the brain.
- Heart: Smoking can lead to plaque buildup in the blood, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Smoking can even increase your risk of a heart attack.
- Skin: Smoking impairs the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to organs and skin. This can cause premature aging in the skin (i.e. wrinkles and dry skin).
- Bones: Smoking can make bones brittle and weak.
Not only is smoking bad for your body’s various organs, but it also can make chronic pain worse. Smoking impairs the body’s ability to deliver nutrients and heal. It is also a risk factor for osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It can even reduce your risk for some types of cancer. As we get older, we tend to gain weight. Some people gain a few pounds each year. It is important to stop gaining.
A study found that middle-aged people who gained 11-22 pounds after the age of 20 were three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The more people gained, the higher their risk for the diseases.
To help you achieve a healthy weight, take a look at your diet, sleep habits, physical activity, and family history (genes). Diet significantly impacts your weight. Processed foods with high amounts of sugar, saturated fat, and calories can lead to weight gain. Inactivity can also cause you to put on weight, since your body is not using the extra calories as fuel.
Sleep can also impact weight gain. There is a link between not getting enough sleep and gaining weight. Finally, genes play a role. Some people are predisposed to gaining weight. If your genes predispose you to weight gain, you will have to take extra care to exercise and eat right.
It is also important to point out that weight can impact pain management. Studies have shown that weight loss can help:
- Reduce headache frequency in obese patients
- Decrease back pain in chronic pain patients
- Improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal pain
Eat Right - Diet is Important
According to WebMD, a study found that over half of the average American diet contains highly processed foods. These highly processed foods, called ultra-processed, are high in salt, fats, oils, and sugars. They also contain chemicals not usually used for cooking and eating. Examples of these processed foods include soda, packaged snacks, prepared frozen dinners, packaged soups, and candy.
Diets high in processed foods and sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease. Furthermore, many of these processed foods can affect our bodies’ inflammatory responses. This can lead to more pain for some chronic pain patients.
To eat healthy, limit consumption of these processed foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating meals that take no preparation to make (such as packaged frozen meals). Also, avoid eating fast food. Look up Mediterranean diet recipes or even vegetarian recipes. Many of these recipes are healthy.
Get Up and Move - Why We Need Physical Activity
The human body was made for moving. Exercise actually helps reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. It also can improve your appearance by slimming you down.
Along with preventing diseases, exercise increases your strength, flexibility, and stamina. These abilities are important for pain management. Many times, chronic pain patients have trouble functioning and performing daily tasks. Their inactive lifestyle deconditions their bodies and makes it even more difficult to perform everyday tasks. It is a vicious downward cycle. However, exercise can help improve strength, flexibility, and stamina, making it easier for chronic pain patients to function.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. Walking is a great way to get your physical activity in. Swimming, water exercises, and yoga are also low impact. Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to exercise before starting.
Need Help With Chronic Pain?
If you need help with managing chronic pain and developing a healthy lifestyle, consider visiting a pain clinic. Pain clinics specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain. If you are looking for a Las Vegas pain clinic, contact Apex Medical Center. We’ve been proudly serving the Vegas and Henderson area for many years and providing customized pain management treatment plans to local residents.