Posted by: audreybenenati | February 8, 2010

Prevention is the New Rx

WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 /PRNewswire/ — The standard American diet, combined with inactivity and other unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, contributes to an excessive number of premature deaths in this country, according to leading preventive cardiology experts speaking at the American College of Cardiology’s Fourth Annual Heart of Women’s Health Conference in Washington, D.C.

"Educating Americans about weight control and consuming foods that reduce risk for heart disease, such as fruits and vegetables, pistachios and other nuts, and limiting saturated fat, added sugar and sodium, is an effective way to contain health costs and help ensure that all Americans have a healthy life," said preventive cardiology dietitian, Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, LD, of the Cleveland Clinic. "It is estimated that more than a million lives could be saved each year through dietary and lifestyle changes alone."

Healthcare professionals in the U.S. are now stressing the power of prevention, focusing on unhealthy behaviors – with poor diet being one of the most important – that account for 75 percent of total healthcare spending.(i) The U.S. spends more than any other developed nation on healthcare costs, yet life expectancies are below those of many countries spending less on medical care.

Heavy Costs of Poor Diet

Overweight and obesity have significant economic impact on the American health care system, with an estimated cost of $75 million annually. If obesity rates continue to rise at current levels, in just eight years, 43 percent of the population will be obese, costing the nation $344 million annually — one in five health care dollars.(ii)

Heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer together account for 70 percent — or 1.7 million — deaths annually. In most cases, they are considered preventable if four healthy behaviors are followed: avoid tobacco, enjoy a healthy diet, exercise regularly and limit alcohol.(iii)

Plant-Based Diets are Most Recommended

Proposed reforms to the current health care system include the creation of programs emphasizing nutrition and other healthy habits. The Cleveland Clinic, a leader in preventive medicine, has implemented numerous nutrition programs designed to improve quality of life and curb health care costs. Ohlson recommends eating a plant-based diet with at least three servings of whole grains, a minimum of eight servings of fruits and vegetables and 25 grams of fiber daily while getting cholesterol-lowering phytosterols from plant-based foods like pistachios, olive oil and other healthy fats.

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