“It’s too late” is something you never want to hear—and you shouldn’t have to if you take all the necessary steps of prevention. With so much knowledge about health out there today, eliminating the causes of many diseases is often possible. Unfortunately, so many people don’t act until it’s too late and are left dealing with a diagnosis. From keeping active to taking vitamins, taking the first step to a healthier future can be as simple as changing your diet and making smarter choices early on.
“Usually we’re forced into the decision-making process when we are very ill, but you should begin it when you are well,” Karen Miller, founder of Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition and Prevention Is The Cure, tells the Press. “People need to look at prevention as a form of cure. Once we find out that there’s no magic bullet and that we are part of the decision-making process, it’s very empowering.”
A recent study published in Population Health Metrics revealed that although it had been steadily rising over recent decades, life expectancy for American women has experienced a steep decline over the last decade, due in part to the rising toll of smoking and obesity. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers. With the help of the electronic cigarette and the new gruesomely detailed cigarette packaging implemented earlier this week as part of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the public is taking notice and possibly taking one step closer to quitting.
Obesity, meanwhile, brings an increased risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, various cancers and musculoskeletal disorders that result in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Recently, the food pyramid that guided Americans on healthy, well-balanced diets was replaced with a “healthy plate” design that emphasizes fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy food groups, along with providing practical information to help people eat healthier and help prevent obesity.
“We can make a tremendous difference in obesity if we begin good eating practices and know more about what you are feeding your baby,” says Miller. “If we help them develop better choices early on in life they will more than likely stand a chance against obesity.”
Fitness is another important piece of the obesity-prevention puzzle. It also boosts your mood, relieves stress and combats diseases, including high blood pressure. Cindi Lockhart, national weight loss coach program at Lifetime Fitness in Syosset advises: “It’s important to balance your workout. For most people, if they want to lose weight, they do cardio and never hit the weights, or people who are under high stress, they run hard, do sprints, further stressing the body,” explains Lockhart. “It’s about the balance, not overdoing in any one area, do cardio and strength training and remember mind and body, like a gentle yoga that’s relaxing and allows the nervous system [to] heal.”
Another way of preventing disease is holistic medicine; everything from acupuncture to massage therapy can improve your health.
“Herbal medicine is based on Eastern traditional Chinese medicine which is very concerned with keeping you healthy and keeping the immune system strong and from getting sick, as opposed to Western medicine, which we all use after we get sick,” explains Barbara E. Carver, senior VP, acting dean of admissions at New York College of Health Professions, which offers integrated medicine. Carver says people who are trying to keep themselves healthy use holistic treatments such as herbs to prevent colds instead of flu shots; to combat stress, massages. Vitamins and supplements are another important way of practicing prevention.
“The lifestyle of the average person these days is that they’re always on the go and they’re not taking their health into consideration,” says Jason Provenzano, president and founder of Farmingdale-based Nutricap Labs. “As a result, their diet does not provide them with the vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy living. For that reason, it’s important for a person to supplement their diet through food or supplemental intake.”
A new government study sponsored by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics shows that between 2003 and 2006, one half of all Americans took vitamins.
“As health care costs continue to rise, consumers are taking their health into their own hands,” adds Provenzano. “Rather than going to their physician to get a prescription, people are going to their local pharmacies and are purchasing over the counter nutraceuticals to maintain their health or to reach a desired health goal.”
Long Island has quickly become a leader in producing vitamins and supplements, with NBTY, Natures Best, Nutricap Labs and Purity Products among the Island’s leading providers.
“There continues to be much more research showing the benefits in nutritional supplements,” says Harvey Kamil, vice chairman of NBTY, a leading global vitamin and supplement manufacturer based in Ronkonkoma. “In terms of vitamin D, it provides cancer prevention and in terms of heart health, fish oil does the trick. Folic acid helps in eliminating birth defects. Studies have shown that there’s a very close relationship between nutrition and health and since everyone wants to be proactive in their health, there is a greater vitamin use.”