The four ‘health don’ts’ are never to smoke, lose weight, move around, and eat well.

A new study, Healthy Living is the Best Revenge, appears in the August 10/24 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine which addresses the roots of chronic disease. The researchers, a cross-Atlantic team from the CDC and the German Institute of Human Nutrition, find that the four ‘don’ts’ lead to a reduced incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The four specific statistics that lead to better health are:

  1. Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 30
  2. 3.5 hours a week of exercise, minimum
  3. Never smoking
  4. A high intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, and low meat consumption.

There is also good news for people who may adopt only some of the 4 recommended lifestyle behaviors: benefits were gained by adopting one behavior at a time. The research showed that adopting only one of the four healthy behaviors reduced chronic disease risk in half.

While the study was done analyzing data from 23,153 German adults, the CDC researcher notes that the results are applicable to the U.S. population.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The four health pillars are easy enough to say, and most of us know them in our heads. But our hearts, guts and bod’s don’t rationally respond to the mantra very effectively.

But the fine print that adopting just one of the 4 health lifestyle pillars can reduce chronic disease risk by one-half points out that even one-change-at-a-time can translate into big wins for personal health. En masse, for the U.S. adult population, such micro-changes can translate into better quality of life for Americans, a more productive workforce, and conservation of scarce health resources for acutely ill citizens.

Dr. David Katz, director of internal medicine and preventive medicine/public health at the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine, wrote an editorial in the Archives commenting on the study. He wrote that the 4 pillars are, “an amazingly short list of behaviors, which…massively influence our risk for premature death and for developing all of the major chronic diseases….so I think of this study as an invitation to every mom and dad — to every family — to try and shore up their commitment to eating well, and try to make exercise part of their routine culture, and to not smoke.”

This evidence should inform public health policy that’s incorporated into any health reform that emerges out of Capitol Hill this year.