Can You Overcome the Health Mistakes of Your Youth?

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Health Mistakes of Your YouthIf you are over 55 years of age and are concerned about your risk of developing a chronic disease, this is an important article for you to read. There is a great deal of research to conclude that our lifestyle dynamics can dictate the risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other chronic diseases associated with the aging process.

And you might be wondering if the way you led your lifestyle in your 20s and 30s influences your current risk of developing a chronic disease.

I would say that definitely depends on a number of key factors. If you have significantly improved your lifestyle over the last several decades, you may have a lot less to worry about.

Diet and Chronic Disease

Many younger folks eat a diet that most would say is very unhealthy, consisting of fast food, sugar, soda, junk food, fried foods, and very large portion sizes. Let’s face it: our youth are getting obese right in front of our eyes! A bad diet and obesity carries with it a rather large increased risk of developing vascular diseases attributed to heart attack and stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes. This risk continues to erode your health as you age. However, if you change your diet soon enough and you also change your body composition, a lot of this risk can be alleviated.

If you are over 55 and have normal blood pressure, normal blood fats, normal blood sugar, and normal measurements of inflammation and blood clotting, your risk decreases. If you combine that with a normal waist circumference, this means that there is very little risk of developing the common chronic diseases of aging—despite what you did in your youth!

Exercise and Chronic Disease

Okay, well what if you were a “couch potato” for the first three decades of your life? Should you be worried? Well, a lot of our youth are not even close to where they should be regarding their level of regular physical activity. This is a very large concern of mine and it can have a devastating effect on your risk for chronic diseases as you get older.

This also depends on your current lifestyle and if it contains at least 30-60 minutes of vigorous activity every day. If it does, despite the fact that you were quite inactive when you were younger, your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or developing diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer are reduced.

MORE: The best way to prevent chronic disease

Bad Habits

In my opinion, the two worst bad habits to develop when you are younger are smoking and drinking. The reason is that, not only are these vices highly addictive, they are also legal and part of our social framework. I am also discussing these two bad habits because the intake usually begins early in life and can last a lifetime. There is no doubt that continual, habitual smoking and drinking can cause damage to your arteries, heart, lungs, brain, and bones. It also greatly increases your risk of various types of cancers including of the breast, lung, and upper digestive tract. However, the damage caused from habitual smoking and drinking can be reversed if you have stopped these habits soon enough!

The damage caused to your arteries from smoking can be reversed in 10-15 years if you abstain and sooner if you exercise regularly and eat a much better diet. The damage to your lungs is also somewhat reversible. However, smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and this carries with it certain pathological changes that can be permanent.

The best way to assess this is to have your lung function tested. If your lung function tests are within normal limits, your risk of developing COPD is not increased from the smoking you did in your youth. Regular drinking can also damage your arteries, brain, and increase your cancer risk. If, in fact, you have been a modest drinker for the past several decades and you do not have a history of alcoholism, your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, dementia, and diabetes can actually be reduced. Modest drinking implies that you consume no more than one drink containing alcohol per day.

If your lifestyle was poor during your more youthful days and this has not markedly improved, you have cause to be greatly concerned! So use this information as an incentive to get active and to start changing your habits today!

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“How Bad Are Your Health Vices?” Prevention web site; http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/how-bad-are-your-health-vices#ixzz2SWKBcl5D, last accessed May 14, 2013.




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Dr. K.J. McLaughlin, BPE, CSCS, MASc. DC

About the Author, Browse K.J.'s Articles

Dr. K.J.McLaughlin is a chiropractor with 27 years of clinical experience. In addition, he has degrees in physical education, nutrition and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with an interest in anti-aging medicine. He has also spent time studying health promotion and the effect that health education has upon health outcomes. Dr. McLaughlin has a diverse professional background which has involved clinical management, teaching, health promotion and health coaching and brings a unique passion to his work.