2009 was a landmark year for health reform, nutrition education and preventative medicine. Take the lessons of the past year to heart and have a healthy 2010! Here are our tips for better health in the year to come and the events that brought us here:
1- Recommit to a Healthy Lifestyle Every Monday
Meatless Monday has advocated weekly behavior change for better health since 2003. This past year, we saw a wide range of research demonstrating that frequent health reminders yield positive results. In the beginning of 2009, John Hopkins University found a positive correlation between periodic prompts and healthy behavior. A California company that sent their employees weekly e-mail tips found similar results; those who received healthy e-mails significantly increased their physical activity level.
2- Follow the First Lady’s Lead
In March Michelle Obama and two dozen local children broke ground on The White House garden. The first lady has been a champion of whole foods since she reached Pennsylvania Avenue, bringing produce to local soup kitchens and schools. The Obamas will surely continue to set a healthy example in the year to come.
3- Avoid Sugary Softdrinks
A proposed soda tax sparked a larger debate about the obesity epidemic, healthcare funding and personal responsibility. Proponents of the suggested "obesity tax‘ felt that it would improve overall health and increase medical funding. Taxation of sugary beverages is still being discussed in several states, including New York, where a new add campaign warns consumers not to "drink themselves fat‘.
4- Stay Active with Your Family
In July of 2009 the Trust for America’s Health released their "F is for Fat‘ report, providing a detailed look at childhood obesity in all 50 states. The percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has more than tripled since 1980, and experts are seeing a jump in juvenile diabetes, abnormal cholesterol and heart concerns as a result. Upset over these findings has lead to discussion about proper diet, physical fitness and kid-targeted ad campaigns.
5- Bring Health to Your Community
This past June, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that the layout of many urban neighborhoods gravely impacts the physical activity of residents, leading to obesity. Many communities strove to improve overall diet and fitness in 2009 by introducing farmer’s markets, gardens and produce delivery. Many urban markets now accept food stamps as well, assuring that all members of the community can eat healthfully.
6- Kick Your Nicotine Habit
In June, President Obama signed landmark legislation to curb American smoking. Under the "Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act’ the FDA has the ability to regulate tobacco industry advertising and product labeling. Bans on flavored cigarettes and a tax increase also went into affect in 2009. The tax hike resulted in an unprecedented amount of quitline calls, demonstrating that monetary incentive is an effective prevention tool.
7- Watch Your Calorie Intake
California joined New York’s calorie counting crusade in July, introducing state- mandated nutrition information on fast food menus. Research on the effectiveness of such legislation found that customers were much more likely to head caloric warnings when recommended daily intake was also posted. Many states are now considering nutrition information laws and fast food chains nationwide are introducing healthier fare in light of the listings. Take control of your calorie consumption with Monday 2000.
8- Move a Bit More Each Day
Doctors, researchers and your insurance company agree; even a small increase in healthy behavior is better than none. A study published in August found that simply moving more, eating healthfully, avoiding smoking and maintaining a normal BMI, cuts your risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and cancer by an astounding 80%. Adopting even one of these behaviors greatly reduces your risk for many preventable diseases. Experts note that basic activities like walking the dog or turning off the television are great ways to stay healthy.
9- Pack a Healthy Lunch
Concerns over the nutritional value of school lunches resulted in media attention, reform and an investigation into current practices. Many schools cut back on junk food and launched healthy cafeteria options in 2009, including Baltimore City Public Schools, who began their Meatless Monday program in September. A report that school lunch standards are less stringent than those for fast food sparked nation-wide coverage and the promise of more school lunch legislation in 2010.
10- Steer Clear of Salt
New research in 2009 gave us more reasons to reduce our salt intake. A November study found that a difference of just one teaspoon of salt per day results in a 23 percent difference in the rate of stroke and a 17 percent difference in the rate of cardiovascular disease, on average. Reducing salt consumption to recommended levels could save billions of dollars in health care costs. In an attempt to help consumers cut back, New York City introduced a campaign to encourage the food industry to trim sodium levels.
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