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Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Will you stick with it? The majority of people will give up their resolution, usually within a month of trying. Now consider this. Here is the list of 10 leading causes of death in the U.S., starting with heart disease, the most common cause of death. (I’m making a point, bear with me):
- Heart disease
- Unintentional injuries (accidents)
- Chronic respiratory diseases (COPD)
- Influenza and Pneumonia
- Kidney disease
What do New Year’s resolutions have to do with the top 10 leading causes of death? Let’s review. The most common resolutions are a) stop smoking, b) lose weight, c) exercise. These are great choices to work on because when they are combined, they are directly tied to 7 out of the 10 causes of death.
- Smoking – causes or increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, chronic respiratory diseases.
- Obesity – Increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, falls (unintentional injury).
- Lack of Exercise – Increases your risk for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, falls.
Another interesting fact is that many of the diseases are interconnected. Some respiratory diseases can lead to heart disease. Diabetes can lead to kidney disease and heart disease. Notice that cancer is a risk factor in all three categories. Most people fear cancer more than any other disease. Yet that fear is not enough to motivate people to make a positive change in their health. The resolutions fall by the wayside usually by the end of January. There are ample reasons to get the bad habits under control. Why the disconnect?
It is difficult for us to see ourselves dying or becoming chronically ill when those events are a long way off. The consequences of our actions are not immediate. We don’t get lung cancer after smoking one cigarette, or even 1,000 cigarettes. Not everyone has the same outcome from a lifetime of bad habits. But you can bet it will catch up with you eventually in some fashion. Yes, your grand mother smoked 2 packs a day all of her life and lived to be 99. She was one in a million. The other 999,999 smokers of 2 packs a day will not fare as well. If you were playing these odds in a casino you would lose.
You may say “I’ll die from something.” That is true. In the meantime, if you develop any of the diseases tied to the three bad habits your quality of life will suffer, likely for years. Think about not being able to breathe without an oxygen tank, or walk without a walker, or doing things you always loved to do. It only gets worse until you die. People have the right idea about the changes they should make. But most can’t seem to follow through. Thus, we become another statistic in the top 10 list.
It’s a pain to go to the gym. It’s nerve wracking to quit smoking. And then there is weight control. All of these habits are difficult to manage. There is no doubt about it. Try to think about your health in terms of the long haul. Make a plan you can live with. Make small changes. Each improvement will motivate you to go the next step. If your plan derails, get back on track as soon as possible because everyone gets sidetracked at some point. When that happens, the plan goes out the window. Keep your health front and center and you will be rewarded. Not by living to 100 necessarily, but by living well.
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Leading Causes of Death in the US 2017. Centers for Disease Control. FastStats Homepage. March 17, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm