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*All facts in this article from the CDC can be found here*

A chronicle of the CDCs 4 major chronic disease risk behaviors…

Chronic diseases are broadly defined as conditions that last 1 year or more & require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living. The most common are heart disease, cancer, and diabetes putting them at both the country’s leading causes of death and health care costs.

The CDC states that most chronic diseases are caused by lifestyle/ behaviors. Their short list includes tobacco use, poor nutrition (including diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in sodium and saturated fats), lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol use.


While I understand that tobacco use and excessive alcohol use are both major causes of chronic disease, in my field I focus specifically on helping people with preventative nutrition with some knowledge on physical activity as well.


Why should you care about preventing chronic diseases now, while you are young?

Most chronic diseases are exactly that, chronic and build up over a long time of unhealthy behaviors. Changing your habits while you are young will allow you to build healthier decisions into your lifestyle for the future. By the time people find out that they have a chronic disease it is often too late and leads to unnecessary health costs, care, lower quality of life, and unneeded surgeries.

Why is nutrition so important?

Overweight and Obesity:

Nearly half of adults in the United States are obese which is a risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Not to mention obesity costs the health care system $147 billion a year from dealing with the symptoms of this behavioral condition.

Heart Disease and Stroke:

The leading causes of heart disease are high blood pressure and blood cholesterol. This occurs from the buildup of plaque (bad cholesterol) in the blood vessels making it so that blood can barely get through. Because this blood can barely get through the pressure needs to be increased and then you get high blood pressure. High sodium diets (highly processed diets) and high saturated and trans fat diets are often the culprit.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Overweight and obesity are risk factors of type 2 diabetes due to their insulin response. 1 in 3 people have pre-diabetes, 90% of them unaware that they have it! Not to mention the number of adults with TIID has more than doubled in the past 20 years. This disease is almost solely caused by poor nutrition in combination with sedentary behavior.


While being overweight and obese is associated with many cancers, unhealthy diet increases risk as well. Unhealthy lifestyles are no friends to cancer and while they might not be the sole cause of all cancers, they can progress them at unnecessary speeds and to greater lengths than they would’ve been.

Deficits in Brain Function:

The brain develops the quickest in the first 1,000 days of life and having poor nutrition during this time (start of pregnancy to age 2) can cause mental and behavioral delays in children. Having appropriate iron and iodine levels are associated with proper brain development.


Healthy Prevention Habits:

1. Eat a varied diet of mostly plants

2. Get blood work done to better understand your nutrition

3. Stay physically active (30 min per day at least!)

4. Stay hydrated

5. Eat minimally processed foods (minimal trans-fat & sugar)

6. Wear sunscreen

7. Do not binge drink

8. Do not smoke


In Conclusion:

Chronic diseases are life altering for yourself and those around you but can be PREVENTED with healthy lifestyle practices like proper nutrition and being physically active. You are never too young to start caring about your health and building healthy habits.


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What is a Registered Dietitian?

A food and nutrition expert who can work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice. RDNs are accredited health professionals that must meet state and government regulations to maintain their credential in addition to completing continuing education. RDNs can practice something called Medical Nutrition Therapy to improve the health of those who suffer from chronic diseases. 

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