By Alvin Danenberg, DDS, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

October 17, 2018 -- A few years ago, investigators attempted to estimate the prevalence of a healthy lifestyle among U.S. adults and examine the link between a healthy lifestyle and various chronic diseases. Their report was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2017 (April 2017, Vol. 91:4, pp. 432-442).

Alvin Danenberg, DDS
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

A healthy lifestyle was defined to include four specific characteristics:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Ideal body fat percentage
  • Smoking avoidance
  • Healthy eating

The researchers looked at data from more than 4,700 participants in the 2003 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. After evaluating all the data and the parameters, the results suggested that only 2.7% of the adult population demonstrated all four qualities of a healthy lifestyle. That's a tiny number considering that incorporation of a healthy lifestyle has repeatedly been proved to increase both the health and the quality of life for everyone.

“Few Americans are heeding the facts that could be saving their lives leading into their golden years.”

Of course, this study had limitations. The most significant weakness was that some of the qualities of a healthy lifestyle were determined from the comments of the participants. For results about a healthy diet, responders recalled what they ate in the previous 24-hour period.

Also, the healthy diet was not a Paleo-type way of eating. The dietary interviewers used the Healthy Eating Index score for each study participant. The Healthy Eating Index -2005 was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an indicator of dietary quality.

The index has 12 components (total fruit; whole fruit; total vegetable; dark green, orange vegetables and legumes; total grain; whole grain; milk; meat and beans; oil; saturated fats; sodium; and calories from solid fats, alcoholic beverages, and added sugars), with each component individually scored and a maximum total score of 100. A higher score would reflect closer adherence to the dietary guidelines.

Heeding the facts

The facts reported in this Mayo Clinic publication are still striking to me. The bottom line, as I see it, is that so few Americans are heeding the facts that could be saving their lives leading into their golden years.

I often ask my patients, "If you knew a train were coming at you, would you get off the tracks?"

Although the answer seems so obvious to people like you and me, the answer sadly evades so many others.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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