The importance of lifestyle as part of preventive health.
Did you know that most chronic conditions are influenced by lifestyle and account for 75% or more of healthcare costs in the United States alone?
There has long been a gap in Western medicine related to providing healthy lifestyle and nutritional guidance to patients. There are many long-term benefits of eating more whole foods, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding inflammatory substances in the diet, and yet today the impact of poor lifestyle choices continues to unfold. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 61% of all deaths and 49% of the global economic effects of disease come from chronic lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.
Healthcare systems are burdened with treating diseases that are preventable if caught early. This is why it’s important for us not only to prioritize preventive-health measures for ourselves at home and in our daily lives, but also to advocate for these practices to be incorporated into our public health systems, as practicing preventive health requires access to resources.
Long-term health and longevity starts with understanding that creating sustainable behavior change is an active, daily choice to think about in the present and also how those same choices impact future well-being. Such health practices range from wearing sunscreen regularly, incorporating more fruits and vegetables (whether fresh or frozen) into your diet, and even taking time to pause and breathe with daily meditation to manage stress and anxiety. Preventive-health choices could also look like taking the stairs instead of the elevator when possible, swapping a sweetened beverage for water, or even putting away your phone an hour earlier each evening. Every practice, no matter how seemingly small, adds up over time!
We asked IIN team members about the small efforts they make each day to support their future health and happiness:
Natalia Zeid, Education
“Preventive health is about longevity. It’s about what I can do right now, in this moment, to ensure that when I am older:
- I do not suffer from the diseases that run in my family.
- I am in a position of optimal muscle retention as I age.
My top three preventive-health practices are hydration, muscle building, and optimal protein intake. I drink nothing but water, and if I need a little flavor, I add fresh fruits or veggies to my water. Cardio is great, but I prioritize weight lifting over any other form of physical activity. The strong link between preventive health and muscle building is not discussed enough in the wellness community. I make sure to get protein from my diet. Well sourced and raised protein is key in my routine.”
Marissa LaRocca, Education
“I floss, wear sunscreen, move my body, drink lots of water, and stretch or do yoga as often as I can. Preventive health is like contributing to a 401K. It might feel like an investment of time and energy in the present, but one day your future self will thank you.”
Megan Turner, AV
“I find that as I get older, inflammation affects how my body feels and moves. In order to reduce it, I engage in a number of practices.
First, I exercise. Not only do I take my dog for a walk and ride my stationary bike to get movement in my day, but I also make it a habit to do at least 15 minutes of yoga in the morning. Doing simple stretches keeps my joints loose and my body feeling great!
Next is diet. I love cheese, but it’s very inflammatory, so I eat very little of it in my diet. It was hard to eliminate at first, but I always have to remember how much better my life is without it.
Finally, I drink tea that has turmeric in it. Turmeric is an amazing spice with lots of healing properties that reduce inflammation. It’s also a warm and comforting drink that makes it perfect during cooler months.
While these practices seem small, they will help me tremendously in the long-term. Inflammation is one symptom that can cause a number of illnesses, so the more I do to prevent it, the more my body will thank me for making me feel my best.”
Anna Glennon, Education
“I put on sunscreen every day. Two of my four grandparents had melanoma, so this is incredibly important to me. I have a young daughter, so I put sunscreen on her every day, too. It’s something we do together, which helps us ensure it’s a habit. We take our skin health very seriously!”
Libby Romfh, Project Management Office
“My biggest preventive-health practice is meditation. I’ve been meditating since 2002. I meditate almost every morning and sometimes throughout the day. I once even meditated in the dentist’s chair. If the choice for filling my time while waiting is doom-scrolling or meditating, I try to lean toward meditation. It helps me manage my stress levels, makes me more pleasant to be around, and keeps me grounded in reality in a time when there are so many opportunities to take refuge from the world around us.”
Sheri Vettel, Education
“Seed cycling! Preventive health is a form of self-care.”
Janet Verney, Education
“I eat the rainbow, including vegetables, legumes, fruits, and grains! I also avoid extracted oils and sugar. Eating this way reduces inflammation in my body, gives me an abundance of energy, and feeds my good gut bacteria for a healthy immune system!”
Jamie Wolff, Education
“Preventive health means practicing self-care in ways that support my holistic wellness long-term. It means looking at the big picture and figuring out what feels good currently, while considering what will support me in the future.
My practices include:
- Regular exercise and movement (at least three to four days per week of organized workouts, plus regular walking, etc.)
- Taking supplements that support my body’s current needs and adopting an 85/15 eating approach that focuses on nutrient density while leaving plenty of room for pleasure
- Creating space for joyful, spiritual, soul-nourishing activities (including writing, reading, making birthday cards for loved ones, etc.), trying to go easier on myself, and noticing signs that my body or brain is stressed so I can recenter myself and adjust mind-sets and habits as needed”
Nora McCaffrey, Education
“I make a conscious choice each day to consume a lot of water and dark leafy greens, maintain a strong sleep cycle, and move regularly. Stress will always come up, and that can have an impact on other parts of my being. Keeping my body strong allows me to recover more quickly if and when I get sick. It also supports my emotional health. I notice that if I consume too much gluten, I see life more half-empty than half-full.”
Darrell Rogers, Legal/Advocacy
“Health is more than simply the absence of disease. A simple practice I do every day to stay healthy is not snacking after dinner! I do everything I can to trick my mind not to eat after dinner: making some fancy tea, pouring a fruit and seltzer drink, brushing my teeth, and getting to bed early. That simple practice has been very positive for my health and the health of everyone I know who adopts it.”
Lorraina Morrison, Project Management Office
“I take out my yoga mat every morning and night to do simple stretches or a short practice. It’s a way to start and end my day on a positive and reflective note, and it counteracts the many hours of sitting in front of a laptop.”
Jill Bauman, Admissions
“My daily health practice includes morning meditation. I feel more centered, calm, and ready for the day ahead. Preventive health for me is essentially self-care practices that will help minimize or reduce disease.”
Noah Zingarelli, Education
“Mindfulness meditation. The best care is self-care! I know that regular meditation can boost my body’s immunity. It is more important than ever now to do all we can to help our bodies stay healthy and thriving.”
Zack Bodenweber, Admissions
“Every morning I take fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin D. I take magnesium in the evening. However, I never forget that supplements should ‘supplement’ an already healthy lifestyle, so I’m diligent about reducing added sugars and refined carbohydrates. I focus instead on leafy greens, lean proteins, and quality fats.”
Put lifestyle changes into practice.
Take steps today that will set up your body for optimal health in the future! At IIN, we are dedicated to providing resources and education that can transform the future of healthcare and public health.
We’ve compiled content and wellness resources to be used as tools for you and your family to take care of yourselves today to provide for a healthier future. Learn how to feed all aspects of your whole-person health and cultivate a preventive-health mind-set in your daily life.