3 Illnesses You Probably Didn’t Know that Diet and Exercise Can Prevent – The majority of people are aware that a healthy diet and regular exercise can prevent numerous diseases and illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke. This healthy way of living also allows you to maintain a healthy weight— which automatically reduces your risk for some of the illnesses listed above. However, there are many more chronic diseases and illnesses that can be avoided with a proper diet and regular exercise.
First of all, a proper diet may be different for everyone— depending on your personal needs and goals. Overall, the human body needs water, complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit, and starchy vegetables), unsaturated fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds), protein (fatty fish, poultry, lean beef, and legumes), vitamins, and minerals.
The human body also needs to move, and this can also look different for everyone. Health movement can range from light physical activity (e.g., walking, cleaning the house, yard work), to full-on exercise— which also ranges in intensity. Depending on what you and your primary care physician determine what’s best for you, exercising and eating right can prevent some long-term, minor and serious illnesses.
Arthritis is the swelling of joints, causing them to become tender and painful. There are several different types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis affects the joints of the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Those who are overweight have a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Exercising is a good way to keep off excess weight. For optimal joint health, make sure to stretch before intense exercises to avoid straining your joints. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are all great exercises to engage in before and/or your workout and can be done as a stand-alone workout.
Some foods to eat for healthy joints include fatty fish, garlic, ginger, cruciferous vegetables, walnuts, and berries. These foods are high in vitamin D (good for the joints and bones), antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Of course your family history and certain lifestyle choices (such as smoking or excessive tanning) can cause you to develop cancer, but certain cancers can be prevented through a healthy diet and regular exercise. Breast, colon, esophageal, kidney, rectal, and uterine cancers are associated with being overweight, so it’s possible that diet and exercise can help prevent these types of cancers in certain individuals.
Cancer is caused by having too many free radicals in our body, and antioxidants are known for helping reduce free radicals. There are a number of different types of foods high in antioxidants, including:
- Dark chocolate
- Goji berries
- Red cabbage
Again, those with a family history or certain genetic makeup may still be at risk of developing cancer because of their genetics. However, a healthy diet full of antioxidants and exercising regularly may still lower that risk. Just make sure to get regular cancer screenings.
Dementia is an umbrella term for a number of illnesses that affect at least two functions of the brain— usually judgment and memory. The most common and most well-known type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This occurs in people aged 65 and older and early-onsetAlzheimer’s occurs in those aged 30 to 64. Some people are also at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s due to a family history of the disease.
While more research is needed, some studies suggest that vitamin D can help prevent or at least slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Because the exact cause is unknown, an exact way to prevent it is still being researched. However, many correlations such as having heart disease and having Alzheimer’s, and eating tons of leafy greens and not having Alzheimer’s suggest that diet could play a role in prevention.
Those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia tend to have a decreased quality of life— especially the elderly. Dementia patients are also more likely to be victims of elder abuse, both in nursing homes and within their own families.
The bottom line is that a healthy diet and regular exercise are both very important when it comes to living a healthy life. Of course, everyone is different and may be more prone to certain illnesses (such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease), but a healthy lifestyle— including abstaining from smoking, excessive drinking, and other harmful behaviors—can help give you a better quality of life.