The Best Medicine? A Balanced Life

“Chronic diseases and conditions — such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis — are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How do you combat them? Founder of the True Health Initiative David L. Katz, MD, MPH, recommends a medicine that doesn’t even require a prescription: a healthy, balanced life.

“I routinely summarize lifestyle as medicine as a six-cylinder engine,” he said in an interview on the True Health Initiative blog. Those six cylinders are feet (physical activity), forks (eating right), fingers (avoid smoking), sleep, stress, and love.

Here are three reasons why a balanced life is the best medicine of all.

1. You can take control of your health.

We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “Knowledge is power.” However, knowledge is only powerful when it’s put to use through action, Dr. Katz explained in the interview. That means not only being knowledgeable about which types of food are best for your body, but also actually consuming them.

Diet is one of the trickier elements of a balanced life, he added, as opinions on what constitutes a “healthy” diet vary greatly from one expert to the next. But the strategy he’s found to be the most effective is based on the “Blue Zones,” discovered by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and multiple New York Times bestselling author. Blue Zones are the five places in the world where people are healthiest — and live the longest as a result. What do people eat in Blue Zones? Food that’s wholesome, close to nature and mostly plant-based. Your best bet for stocking up on the right food is to skip the center aisles of the grocery store, where processed food is typically located. Stay to the outside instead, where you’ll find fresh fruits, veggies and other healthier options.

2. You can save money.

The majority of America’s health care costs (86 percent) come from the treatment of people with chronic diseases. In 2012, the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes was $245 billion. That includes $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in decreased productivity (costs associated with people being absent from work, less productive at work, or being unable to work at all).

Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is the best way to help prevent diabetes, and the costs associated with it. One tip to get started is to find an accountability partner. Maybe it’s a spouse who is also eager to get his or her health back on track. Or a neighbor who has always been supportive. But, whomever the person, having company on your well-being journey can help you stay committed.

3. You can help to prevent or lessen the severity of chronic diseases.

Chronic diseases don’t just take a toll on our wallets. They can threaten the quality — and even the longevity — of our lives. But, fortunately, there are actions we can take, as well as behaviors we can avoid, to help prevent chronic diseases or to lessen their severity.

Some of the healthy behaviors we can adopt include:

  • Being physically active
  • Filling your plate with fruits and veggies
  • Avoiding food that is high in sodium or saturated fats
  • Avoiding cigarettes
  • Limiting alcohol intake

If you have prediabetes, for example, you can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in half by simply eating right and exercising more.

Lifestyle changes like these can help to improve your life — or even to save it.

Want to help your organization create a culture of well-being? Consider Revive, a 16-week, comprehensive lifestyle program, designed to help people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Find out how Revive can help organizations decrease absenteeism and help people lead their best lives.