One of the first things people focus on when trying to live better is to improve their eating habits. Your primary goal is likely to lose extra weight, but there’s another benefit of eating well: lowering your risk for developing a chronic disease. If you think your chances of developing a chronic disease are low, think again. As of 2012, roughly 117 million people had one or more of these conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are five diseases you can avoid by eating healthy.
1. Heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, according to the CDC. Roughly 610,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. Coronary artery disease is the most common type in the United states, and it can lead to reduced blood flow to the heart, putting you at a greater risk for a heart attack. Heart disease and stroke accounted for approximately $316.6 billion in health care costs and interruptions in productivity for Americans in 2011.
How you can eat heart-healthy
A heart-healthy diet, MedlinePlus says, consists of fruits and vegetables, grains, and healthy protein. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is five or more servings a day. Grains can be added to your diet through pasta, whole-wheat bread, and cereals. And healthy proteins can be consumed in the form of lean meats, nuts, and eggs.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is caused when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both, said the experts at the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Consequently, your bones can become weak and break easily. One of the first visible signs of bone disease is fracture. Roughly 1.5 million people fracture a bone because of underlying bone disease.
Your age, genes, and gender can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. However, there are some dietary changes you can make that could reduce the likelihood of you being diagnosed.
WebMD says you can reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis by eating a diet that contains calcium-rich foods, such as dark-green vegetables and dairy products. Also make an effort to get some vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. You can obtain vitamin D by spending time outdoors in the sunlight.
Cancer is a deadly disease that has more than 100 different types, and roughly 591,699 people die each year from cancer. And unfortunately, many who are battling this disease face hefty medical bills. The average price of a year’s worth of cancer drugs is estimated to cost more than $100,000, according to a study. Cancer treatments, even for those with insurance, cost patients as much as $30,000 a year. This means doing everything you can to prevent the disease will benefit bot your health and your bank account.
Reducing your chances of getting cancer
The risk for developing certain cancers could be lowered through your diet. Cruciferous vegetables, for example, contain glucosinolates, which are chemicals that break down into compounds that might fight against cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Broccoli, arugula, and cauliflower are some cruciferous vegetables you might want to add to your diet.
Bonus: Studies have found that garlic may also have some cancer-fighting abilities. Developing a routine of regular exercise could also reduce your cancer risk.
4. Type 2 diabetes
Roughly 415 million adults around the globe have diabetes. When it comes to type 2 diabetes (the most common type), your body does not do a good job of making or using insulin, a hormone that helps glucose enter your cells to allow them to get energy. It can be dangerous if your body is not making or using insulin properly: If your body stops making insulin, too much glucose will remain in your blood. This can result in complications with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums, and teeth, the experts at the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus say.
Lowering your chance of getting type 2 diabetes
Being overweight or having a family history of type 2 diabetes can increase your chances. However, there are lifestyle and dietary changes you can make to help reduce the likelihood you will become the next diabetes statistic. First, if you are overweight, work with your physician to find a good plan that will help you shed excess pounds. It’s possible to prevent or delay diabetes by losing 5% to 7% of your starting weight, reports the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.
As far as diet, focus on eating smaller portions. This will help lower your daily caloric intake and help you lose weight. Also pick foods with less fat. In addition, increase water intake instead of reaching for sugary beverages.
The American Heart Association, The American College of Cardiology, and the Obesity Society officially declared obesity a disease in 2013. Doctors are encouraged to measure their patients’ body mass index, which is determined based on height and weight, once a year. If you have a body mass index of 30 or more, you are considered obese, says the American Heart Association. Close to 78 million adults in the United States are considered obese, so prevention really needs to be a priority.
Reducing your obesity risk
All it takes is a few habit changes to get back on the road to health. You can keep the weight off by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also look better. Before you start a weight-loss program, make sure to speak to your doctor first.
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.