Arlington residents have, once again, earned the top ranking in the 2021 ACSM American Fitness Index. As the city’s 4th consecutive year in the #1 spot, with 66.9% of residents in very good or excellent health, it’s no secret that Arlington residents value their healthful choices in the snacks and beverages they consume.
Arlington's high ranking is largely due to residents' lower than average blood pressure and rates of heart disease and diabetes -- all diseases greatly impacted by the foods we eat.
Let's dive a little deeper into how diet affects these health conditions. In short, diets high in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and simple carbohydrates lead to greatly increased risks of these diseases.
High Blood Pressure / Hypertension
According to Harvard Health Publishing, "half of the 65 million American adults with high blood pressure [hypertension] don't have it under control. That's worrisome given the insidious consequences of high blood pressure:
It is the leading cause of stroke in the United States.
It contributes to thousands of heart attacks.
It overworks heart muscle, leading to heart failure.
It damages the kidneys, erodes sight, interferes with memory, puts a damper on sexual activity, and steals years of life."
A comprehensive report published in 2013 by a group of reputable scholars titled, Dietary Approaches to Prevent Hypertension outlines how "certain dietary patterns and individual dietary elements play a prominent role in the development of hypertension."
But, there's good news, because the report also explains how "changes in diet can lower blood pressure, prevent the development of hypertension, and reduce the risk of hypertension-related complications."
Some dietary strategies for the prevention of hypertension from this report and a separate report titled The Effects of Dietary Factors on Blood Pressure by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University include:
reducing sodium intake
limiting alcohol consumption
increasing potassium intake
adopting an overall dietary pattern such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, a Mediterranean diet, or a vegetarian diet.
The authors of both reports concluded that "in order to reduce the burden of blood pressure-related complications, efforts that focus on environmental and individual behavioral changes that encourage and promote healthier food choices are warranted." And we at Greater Goods Convenience couldn't agree more, hence, our focus on healthy, natural snacks! 😉
Heart disease, as described by the CDC, "refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack."
Additionally, the CDC reports that "about half of all Americans (47%) have at least one of three key risk factors of heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking." And several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices that can also put people at a higher risk include: diabetes, being overweight and obesity, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.
In addition to all of the dietary recommendations for preventing and treating hypertension, it is further recommended to reduce saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet to reduce your risk of heart disease, which of course, can be achieved in part by having healthier, natural snacks more readily available in vending machines from Greater Goods Convenience 🙂.
Diabetes (Type 2)
FamilyDoctor.org provides an excellent, simple description of type 2 diabetes and how it's caused: "Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use the insulin as it should... When you eat, your body changes most of the food you digest into glucose (a form of sugar). A hormone called insulin allows this glucose to enter all the cells of your body. There it is used for energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. In someone who has type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or the body’s cells can’t use insulin properly (called insulin resistance). This causes glucose to build up in your blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems that damage the blood vessels, nerves, heart, eyes, and kidneys."
Obesity is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes -- the more overweight you are, the more resistant your body is to insulin, and "of U.S. adults, 88 million—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes, and more than 8 in 10 of them don’t know they have it," according to the CDC.
Unsurprisingly, a healthy diet is again a top recommendation from medical experts when it comes to preventing and controlling type 2 diabetes. Just like with hypertension and heart disease, you want to avoid too much sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat, and the following are some healthy foods to include in your diet, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center:
Whole grains, such as 100% whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal
Nonfat or low-fat dairy products, such as nonfat milk and yogurt (but be sure these products don't have sugar added to make up for the fat removed)
Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dried beans and peas
Foods and drinks with no added sugar
Fruits and vegetables
Given the prevalence of these diseases in the U.S. and their risk factors, it is no small feat that Arlington residents score so well on the ACSM American Fitness Index year after year. Clearly, Arlington residents know a thing or two about healthy diets and active lifestyles!