Five changes could make this your last unhealthy bowl season

UAB wellness expert says 70 percent of the leading health problems affecting Americans could be improved by behavior modifications.

Bowl season marks the end of college football games for the year, and one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert says it could also mark the end of unhealthy times for some Americans, with five simple lifestyle modifications.

“If you looked at the health status of the fans in an average athletic arena, you may be surprised,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB’s wellness coordinator and an adjunct professor in the Department of Human Studies. “We can estimate that 70 percent of people in the stands will die from a chronic disease,” says Whitt, citing national health statistics.

“If you want to move out of that crowd and get in the game of living well, you have to choose to be healthy. Think about what changes you are willing to make in order to stop being a spectator,” Whitt says.

stadium_revised_story1The most common chronic diseases are heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and inactivity all implicated as causes or contributing factors. Nearly one in two adults is living with at least one chronic disease.

“The incredible component of chronic diseases is that many of them are preventable through lifestyle,” Whitt says.

Whitt says these five changes in behavior will improve your health:

  • Improve your nutrition — Get the recommended daily five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Quit tobacco — 5.4 million people worldwide die yearly due to tobacco-related illnesses
  • Start moving — Add daily aerobic activity
  • Drink moderately — No more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men
  • Manage stress — Positive mental health is associated with improved health

“You can make choices every day about nutrition and physical activity to prevent the onset of poor health. We often hear the excuse, ‘I don’t have time to exercise,’ but my question is, do you have time to face a life-threatening disease?” says Whitt.

Whitt also suggests you have preventive screenings to alert you to changes in your health. And if you do have chronic conditions, adhere to your medication regimen and follow physician recommendations.

“Being burdened with a chronic disease doesn’t have to be a part of your future,” Whitt explains.