Chronic Disease Prevention: You Have the Power!

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 92% of all older adults have at least one chronic disease, while 77% of older adults have at least two chronic diseases.  In addition, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes result in approximately two-thirds of all deaths every year.

The United States National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic disease as a disease that persists for a long time, typically occurring three months or more.  Your risk of developing a chronic disease increases with age, with diseases including: arthritis, cardiovascular disease and stroke, cancer, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, epilepsy and seizures, and obesity.

Common Risk Factors

The major risk factors to the leading chronic diseases are those that are widely known to damage health.

  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Diets low in fruits and vegetables
  • Diets high in sodium and saturated fats

So, what can YOU do to decrease YOUR likelihood for developing a chronic disease?  The two most important aspects to chronic disease prevention include proper nutrition and regular physical activity.


Incorporating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been proven to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and stroke.  Developed by the United States Department of Agriculture, “MyPlate” recommends that women should consume 1 ½-2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day, while men should consume 2 cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables each day.  In addition, an increase consumption of fiber assists in reducing an individual’s risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.  “MyPlate” recommends that women should consume 6 ounces and men consume 7 ounces of grains each day.  It is important to make at least half of your grains be whole grains, which includes brown rice, whole grain bread, and oatmeal.  Lastly, the consumption of dairy products has demonstrated a decreased likelihood in type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as a lower blood pressure in adults.  “MyPlate” recommends that both men and women consume 3 cups of dairy products each day, including low-fat or skim milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and low-fat cheese.

Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can produce many long-term health benefits in both the mind and body.  Those who do not participate in regular physical activity are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and experiencing a stroke.  On the contrary, individuals who engage in regular physical activity decrease their risk of developing chronic illnesses and depression, which in turn increases their quality and quantity of life.  If you are the age of 65 and older, are generally fit, and have no limiting health conditions, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, such as walking
  • 2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulder, and arms

150 minutes of physical activity may seem overwhelming, but the goal is to aim for 30 minutes of activity on at least five days each week.  In addition, research has confirmed that you receive the same health benefits if you break your sessions into three, 10-minute sessions or two, 15-minutes sessions each day!

Take charge of your health today by consuming a healthy diet and incorporating regular physical activity into your life!  You have the power to prevent these chronic diseases from taking over your life!

The Hult Center for Healthy Living provides adult health education programs that aim to decrease your risk of a variety of chronic diseases.  For more information about these programs, contact (309) 672-4926 or visit the Hult Center for Healthy Living at 5215 N. Knoxville Avenue in Peoria, Illinois.