Unhealthy State of the Union: New Study Reveals Roots of Americans’ Unhealthy Lifestyles

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Battle of the BulgeAs many moms strive to set the best example for their kids, a new survey from Reader's Digest and Humana reveals that few Americans are making the right choices when it comes to living healthy lifestyles. Despite our best efforts to make healthy decisions, the survey of 1,000 Americans polled consumers on their health and well being and showed that many Americans are continuing to compromise their health in ways that can lead to chronic disease.

Humana Inc., one of the nation's leading health and well-being companies, and Reader's Digest, one of America's most recognized brands, announced results of a nationwide survey that highlights an intriguing fact about health in America – despite our best intentions, Americans continue to make unhealthy choices.

According to the study, which looked at behaviors among different age groups, seniors were one group that ranked having good health as most important to them – more important than having a close-knit family or financial security. With a commitment to help people achieve lifelong well-being, Humana understands that while seniors’ healthy choices are important and critical to independent living and aging in place, Americans can’t wait until they turn 65 to make healthy choices. To effectively prevent chronic conditions, Americans of all ages must begin making healthier choices today.

Humana and Reader's Digest surveyed 1,000 people nationwide about their health and well-being. Questions ranged from lifestyle tendencies – nutrition, hygiene, sleep and exercise – to feelings about happiness and the value of health today.

Americans know how to make healthy choices, but still do not make them

While it's widely understood that vegetables and fruits have health benefits and that everyone should drink water, most people eat too few veggies and fruits and drink too little water. The Humana and Reader Digest’s study found that:

  • Only 26 percent of Americans eat 3-5 servings of vegetables a day
  • Only 14 percent of Americans eat 3-5 servings of fruit a day
  • Only 1 in 10 drink the recommended 8 glasses of water per day

Also, one third of Americans do not eat fruit as part of their overall diet, one in 10 Americans drink no water during the day, and one in 10 Americans have four or more meals from a fast food restaurant over the course of each week. Equally as concerning, Americans are sedentary for slightly more than 7 hours a day – more time than is typically spent sleeping.

"As a physician, I have an understanding that all patients don't follow "doctor's orders" to get enough sleep, exercise and eat right," said Philip Painter, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Humana’s Health Guidance Organization. "However, having this view of the unhealthy choices that so many Americans are making is alarming and makes it clear how focused we need to be about helping people take those small, meaningful steps, for example, ordering water instead of soda or picking up an apple as a snack."

"These results highlight an important issue, primarily that while we understand the negative effects of certain health behaviors, we do little to make positive, impactful changes," said Tom Liston, President of Humana’s Retail Segment, which includes health plans sold directly to individuals, such as Medicare plans. "Through this research we hope to better understand the state of health in America today and further Humana’s dream of helping people achieve lifelong well-being."

Seniors value good health … and some habits reflect this outlook

The survey segmented demographic groups into sub-categories, allowing for a more comprehensive snapshot of different age groups. Similar to most Americans, many seniors are making questionable diet and fitness choices. Most seniors are still not managing to get the recommended 3 to 5 servings of both fruits and vegetables daily.  In addition, seniors are drinking less water than Americans overall and few exercise regularly.  In fact, 42 percent of seniors (compared to 29 percent of Americans overall) engage in no physical activity that raises their heart rate over the course of a week.

40 percent of seniors (people 65 and older) believe "good health" equates to being happy, while 46 percent of Americans overall define good health as being in better physical shape. The survey also found:

  • 44 percent of seniors eat a full three meals per day compared to 36 percent of Americans overall.
  • Seniors also sleep more, getting 7.3 hours of sleep a night compared to 7.0 hours for Americans overall.
  • 87 percent of seniors are more likely than Americans overall (77 percent) to have gotten a general physical exam within the past year.

This contrast in what we should do and what we actually do demonstrates a need for new approaches to help motivate people in various age groups to make healthy choices based on what is important to them.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Working moms are more likely (58 percent) to participate in regular daily physical activities (e.g. taking walks, using stairs, going to a gym) than working dads (37 percent).
  • Four in five Americans say they would choose receiving $5,000 over losing 10 pounds.
  • Nearly four of five seniors (79 percent) rate their health positively.

Information from this study will be published in upcoming issues of Reader’s Digest, starting with the May issue.

"We're excited to partner with Humana on this study. The objective of this research is to inform people about the state of health in America, and in a simple and direct way, help people simplify and enrich their everyday lives by deciding to make healthier choices," said Dan Lagani, President, Reader’s Digest North America. "In upcoming issues of Reader’s Digest, we will highlight the important results of this study along with suggestions on ways people can alter their health habits for the better."

What one health habit do you happen to struggle with the most?  If you were offered $5,000 or to lose 10 pounds, which option would you take?
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!

Melissa @ Mommy Living the Life of Riley!
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