The Well-Being Journal

Just In: Healthy Behaviors on the Rise

Jennifer Rudloff

This week, the February findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® were released. They indicate that Americans starting 2012 on the right when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. In fact, since December, the percentage of Americans who reportedly ate the recommended servings of fruits and veggies at least 4 days in the last week (5 servings) increased by 3.3 percentage points. That’s quite an improvement for just a few short months. But healthy behaviors aren’t stopping in the kitchen; they’re also extending to the gym as more Americans are exercising more frequently. These 2 factors together boosted the Healthy Behavior Index score by nearly 3 points since December. Looks like those resolutions are paying off after all.

And yet there’s still more positive news – it seems that we’re starting to reverse or at very least slow the trend when it comes to obesity. In February, the Well-Being Index shows that Obesity dropped to 25.6% -- that’s tied for the lowest monthly level Gallup and Healthways have found since October 2008.

Now that’s the good news. The bad news is that when it comes to healthy behaviors, American’s still have a long way to go! There’s no doubt that most Americans know what it takes to be healthy, and there’s no shortage of resources out there to help. But we often let our desire for immediate gratification get in the way of doing the right thing. Take heart health for example: The American Heart Association has a list of 7 heart healthy behaviors they refer to as “Life’s Simple 7” which include some fairly straight forward behaviors including:

  • don’t smoke
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • engage in regular physical activity
  • eat a healthy diet
  • manage blood pressure
  • take charge of cholesterol
  • keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels

Seems pretty straight forward, no? Yet a recent study shows that only 1.2% of Americans are following these simple seven. And that’s why heart disease remains America’s number one killer, folks.

So how do we move forward and build momentum behind a healthy behavior movement? The first step towards impacting populations is to recognize where the gaps lie. You know that thing "they" say about know knowledge being power…it's true! As you explore your population and identify gaps, you'll begin to better understand the needs of your people and poise yourself to more effectively support their journey towards better well-being.

If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck -- we have the tools to help! For organizations, the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ makes the process of understanding your population easy! It offers simple, complete, and actionable insights into the social, emotional, and physical health factors that are impacting the well-being of your unique population. It also help brings awareness to each person as they'll each receive a personal well-being report and plan. The plan is reflective of their responses and risks, and provides targeted feedback to help them make progress towards improving their health and well-being.

Topics: Healthy Living In the News Exercise Well-Being Index Simple Seven Healthways Gallup Eating Healthy

Have a Love Affair This Valentines Day, With Your Heart

Jennifer Rudloff

Whether it means flowers, chocolates, jewelry, or romantic dinners for 2 - Valentines day is the one-day each year that people all over the world shower those holding a special place in their hearts with love. This valentines day, show them that you want to be there for them, not just today, but for years to come. Commit to having a love affair this year, and make your heart your lover.

In the United States, one in three deaths is attributable to cardiovascular disease making this the leading cause of death and disability for Americans. The kicker is that it’s largely preventable. How, you ask? You don’t have to do anything drastic – taking small steps each day can have a profound impact on your health and quality of life. Try using American Heart Association’s “Simple 7” as your guide:

  1. Don’t smoke: Smoking damages your circulatory system and puts you at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. If you’ve tried quitting before without success – don’t concede to defeat. Create the perfect storm for yourself – decide to choose life if not for yourself, for those you love. There is a wealth of resources out there to support you in your journey. You don’t know how good not smoking can make you feel until you’ve quit - It won’t take long for the cravings to subside, energy levels to rise, and for you to start feeling healthier.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight: Two out of three Americans are overweight or obese. That puts a fair chunk of heart health at risk. Losing as little as 5-10 pounds can have a real impact your blood pressure. Losing weight starts with understanding how many calories you should intake each day. To assess your daily nutritional needs, click here.
  3. Engage in regular physical activity: There are so many benefits to physical activity – Not only does it help to condition your heart, a little exercise can go a long way to improving quality of life, reducing fatigue, anxiety, depression, pain and dementia. And guess what, there are ways to get moving without even thinking about it.
  4. Eat a healthy diet: According to the American Heart Association, a heart healthy diet means eating foods low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and foods high in whole grain fiber, lean protein, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Not only will these foods help you prevent and battle cardiovascular disease, they’ll also help you feel better. Try to remember the principles of input/output and eat with the mindset that you’re eating for the nutrients – this can help to impact your food choices.
  5. Manage blood pressure: Elevated blood pressure puts a strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys; it is the single biggest risk factor for heart disease. So how do you lower your blood pressure: eat a healthier diet that is low in sodium, remain active and maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, limit drinking, and avoid smoking. Easy peasy.
  6. Take charge of cholesterol: When left unchecked, cholesterol can clog up your arteries and cause blockages that may lead to heart disease and stroke. Begin impacting your cholesterol by choosing to eat foods that are high in fiber, and low in cholesterol and fats. Maintain a healthy weight. And exercise – this can help boost your body’s production of good cholesterol.
  7. Keep blood sugar, or glucose at healthy levels: Your body turns food into glucose which becomes energy which insulin then carries cells. Over time, high blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. Through limiting simple sugars (soda, candy), getting regular physical activity, and taking medication as needed, you can reduce your blood sugar and help control the risks.

All of these tips will help you show your heart a little love and ensure that you have many more valentines’ days to share with the ones you love. What are some small things you do every day to promote heart health?

Topics: Healthy Living Heart Month Health Prevention Simple Seven Heart Health American Heart Association valentines day