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Nutrition and overall health

This is an excerpt from ACSM's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health-2nd Edition by American College of Sports Medicine & Barbara A. Bushman.

Researchers of nearly all chronic diseases have studied the role of nutrition. (The term chronic is used to refer to diseases that often begin at a younger age and develop over time.) Six of the top 13 causes of death are related to poor nutrition and inactivity. By rank, these are heart disease (number 1), cancer (2), stroke (4), type 2 diabetes (6), chronic liver disease or cirrhosis (12), and high blood pressure (13). Obesity is related to many of these causes of death; and although some have a genetic component, most are related to poor nutrition and lack of exercise, both of which are lifestyle habits.


Chronic diseases resulting from poor nutrition also lead to other disabilities, resulting in further loss of independence. For example, type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness and amputation. Hip fractures are typically a result of osteoporosis, and people who suffer from a hip fracture are more likely to die within one year of their fracture or require long-term care than people who do not suffer a hip fracture. Approximately 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack, 77 percent of those who have a first stroke, and 74 percent of those with congestive heart failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg (i.e., hypertension). Obesity is an epidemic, with about a third of adults in the United States considered obese. Furthermore, about 17 percent of American children and teenagers (2 to 19 years of age) are considered obese.


Researchers have reported that unhealthy eating and sedentary behavior cause around 400,000 deaths per year in the United States. Because most Americans consume diets too high in total fat, trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar, and too low in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fiber, poor health and death are often related to poor nutrition. The combination of unhealthy diets and inactivity is the leading cause of death in the United States, above tobacco and alcohol use, and far above drug use and motor vehicle accidents. In addition, the health care costs of poor nutrition and inactivity are astronomical. Healthier diets could save billions of dollars in medical costs per year and also prevent lost productivity and, most important, loss of life.


Good nutrition and physical activity are the two most beneficial "medicines" you can use to prevent disease and live a good-quality life. Take control! You owe it to yourself to treat your body well.

Learn more about ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness and Health, Second Edition.