By Michael S. Miller and Matthew A. SmithEditorialThe most important question of the day is whether your health is improving.
A new medical research study has found that it is.
And the answer is yes.
In fact, the research finds that your overall health, as measured by your general health, has improved significantly over the past five years.
Researchers at Duke University and the Mayo Clinic reviewed medical and health-related records from about 3.6 million people who were screened by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States from 1999 to 2009.
They looked at things like whether they were obese, underweight, or overweight and how much of that increased in the years since.
The researchers also looked at whether people had chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or high blood pressure.
The authors found that overall, the percentage of people with the three most common chronic diseases — heart disease (54 percent), diabetes (51 percent), and hypertension (48 percent) — increased over time.
In other words, the study found that there was a substantial decrease in the prevalence of these three diseases and that those who were obese and underweight had the lowest rates of chronic diseases.
But the researchers didn’t look specifically at how people were actually eating.
They didn’t ask them to list what their meal plans were, for example, and they didn’t use a food frequency questionnaire that measures people’s eating habits.
Instead, they looked at other factors such as whether people were regularly using drugs or alcohol, or whether they had any mental health problems, such and anxiety disorders, or depression.
These factors are known to increase the risk of developing chronic diseases and chronic illnesses.
And these results suggest that it might be possible to use a diet that is healthy for you, says senior author Michael J. Cacioppo, MD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia.
He’s one of a group of researchers who recently published a review of the NHANES data on the health and diet of adults, and he thinks the findings are promising.
“Our findings suggest that there may be a link between how much people eat and their overall health and longevity,” he says.
And he adds that the findings also raise an interesting question: What should we be eating to help reduce our risk of chronic disease?
In other words: How much fat is safe for us?
“We know that people are generally more vulnerable to obesity,” says Caciozzo.
“People who are obese are also more likely to have a heart disease and diabetes.
So they’re at higher risk of heart disease.”
Cacioppo and his colleagues looked at the relationship between weight and other chronic health factors.
They found that people with higher BMI had a higher risk for all three chronic diseases, including heart disease.
And those with lower BMI had the greatest reduction in the risk for each chronic disease.
But what about people who aren’t obese?
Caciozza says the answer to that question is still unclear.
“This is one of the most important questions that we face in the study,” he explains.
“We don’t know whether there is a link, but we think there is.”
This article is reproduced with permission from The American Journal of Epidemiology.
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