Lifestyle is the single most important factor in preventing disease

 The current belief is that medicine is to be valued for its use during illness. Its use ends with cure. But this point of view has to change. Medicine is used to see that one does not fall ill….just as the purpose of truth is to live so that one is not subject to birth again.

Sathya Sai Baba, September 1980

Does your lifestyle and diet help prevent disease? The answer to this question is a resounding, scientific, evidence-based “yes”. The literature on this matter is prolific. In a classic book on diet and lifestyle1 the authors present overwhelming evidence about the importance of lifestyle, diet and exercise in reducing risk factors of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and some cancers.

The literature further cites evidence of certain specific lifestyle and dietary changes that have been shown to have an effect of reducing modifiable risk factors of chronic diseases. These include:

  1. Stopping smoking2 (smoking cessation extends life3).
  2. Maintaining a healthy weight (BMI of between 18.5 and 25 for European origin population and 23 for Asian population4)
  3. Engaging in physical activity and exercise5 (at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week6)
  4. Eating a healthy diet7 (plant protein lowers cardiovascular risk better than animal protein8)
  5. Using a stress relief program9 (Yoga and Tai-Chi reduce inflammatory response to stress10)
  6. Daily meditation (the effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system11).

Bottom Line: Prevent diseases tomorrow by following healthy lifestyle today



  1. Willett WC, Koplan JP, Nugent R, Dusenbury C, Puska P, Gaziano TA. Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2006.
  2. Toll BA, Rojewski AM, Duncan LR, et al. "Quitting smoking will benefit your health: the evolution of clinician messaging to encourage tobacco cessation. Clin Cancer Res. 2014;20(2):301-309. doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2261
  3. Taylor DH, Hasselblad V, Henley SJ, Thun MJ, Sloan FA, Sloan FA. Benefits of smoking cessation for longevity. Am J Public Health. 2002;92(6):990-996. doi:10.2105/ajph.92.6.990
  4. Barba C, Cavalli-Sforza T, Cutter J, et al. Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies. Lancet. 2004;363:157-163.
  5. Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006;174(6):801-809. doi:10.1503/cmaj.051351
  6. Ahlskog JE, Geda YE, Graff-Radford NR, Petersen RC. Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. Mayo Clin Proc. 2011;86(9):876-884. doi:10.4065/mcp.2011.0252
  7. Skerrett PJ, Willett WC. Essentials of healthy eating: a guide. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):492-501. doi:10.1016/j.jmwh.2010.06.019
  8. Richter CK, Skulas-Ray AC, Champagne CM, Kris-Etherton PM. Plant protein and animal proteins: do they differentially affect cardiovascular disease risk? Adv Nutr. 2015;6(6):712-728. doi:10.3945/an.115.009654
  9. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480
  10. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Christian L, Preston H, et al. Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosom Med. 2010;72(2):113-121. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181cb9377
  11. Morgan N, Irwin MR, Chung M, Wang C. The effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system: meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014;9(7):e100903. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100903

Note: This article is for your information only and no advice is given or intended. You should consult your physician before making any changes to your life that may possibly affect your health.