Monday, May 2, 2011

Play Now, Pay Later: Is Your Health on the Back Burner?

Whether you mean to or not, there is a good chance that you're putting your heart health (and your overall health) at risk on a daily basis. Since there are quite a few factors to consider for heart health and so many tasks to juggle from day to day, it is easy to see why heart health might not be the highest priority on your to-do list. What's scary, however, is how little young adults truly know about heart health at a time in their life where their current actions set the stage for their future health.

According to a new survey from the U.S., many young adults actually think they're leading quite a healthy lifestyle (or at least that's what they tell themselves), even though many of their behaviours are contradictory to heart healthy guidelines. Activities such as smoking, late night partying, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much alcohol and sugary drinks and indulging in fast food too often can wreak serious havoc on anyone's health. In fact, such behaviours put young adults at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Despite wanting to live long and healthy lives, the survey results showed that less than 1% of young adults aged 18-24 meet the criteria for an 'ideal' heart healthy diet and lifestyle. The scariest part is that nearly half of the survey respondents said they weren't concerned about heart disease or stroke, and a third didn't believe that healthy behaviors they engage in now will affect their risk for stroke later on. The experts attribute many of their findings to the idea that young adults tend to feel 'invincible' or 'vaguely mortal' in the prime of their lives; they just want to have fun and enjoy life.

According to Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, "Young people may not realize that healthy behaviors now translate into better health in middle adult life,...Living a healthy lifestyle at the earliest ages is critical to living free of cardiovascular disease and stroke,".

The resounding message among experts was that young adults tend to have a 'play now, pay later' mindset, which will likely get them in trouble. Why not try paying it forward once in a while? Healthy 80% of the time, carefree 20% of the time. Sure, you only live once, but your health is all you have, so give a little for what you take.