Open Accessibility Menu

Lifestyle Choices About Diet and Exercise Can Help You Prevent and Control Chronic Disease

Today, the U.S. faces major challenges to the health and well-being of our population. For example:

  • 78 million Americans are considered obese
  • 117 million people – about half of all adults in the U.S. – have one or more preventable, chronic diseases
  • 70 percent of adults who are overweight and 75 percent of those who are obese have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease or diabetes

This is the second in a series of articles on recent advances in U.S. efforts to take a more proactive, preventive approach to improving and protecting the health of our citizens. We’ll also talk about what you can do to improve your own and your family’s health, and how Washington Hospital works every day to protect the health of patients and the community.

“Summer’s coming, and this is a great time to refocus yourself on living a healthier lifestyle, eating better and exercising more,” said Anna Mazzei, registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Washington Hospital. “By taking a proactive approach to managing your weight to prevent or control disease, you’ll also look and feel better.”

Population Health

Scientific research has demonstrated the close link between Americans’ lifestyle and public health problems, such as obesity and chronic disease. Based on these findings, the U.S. government is taking a more proactive approach to improving the health of our population through landmark legislation and sweeping new policies.

Last year, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion released the latest Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020. The updated recommendations place a greater emphasis on adopting healthier nutritional patterns. The goal is to prevent or slow the progress of chronic disease by making you more aware of how lifelong eating habits affect your overall health.

Some of the latest dietary guideline concepts were translated into new food labeling requirements announced by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this spring. In response to the obesity crisis, nutrition labels will put a stronger focus on calories, serving size and sugar content.

“These developments represent food policy on a grand scale,” commented Mazzei.

Meantime, the Affordable Care Act is strengthening the focus on population health by requiring health plans to include preventive and wellness services as well as chronic disease management in their core package of Essential Health Benefits.

Preventive Services in your Community

“As part of our mission to serve the health care needs of the community, Washington Hospital Healthcare System helps people take a more proactive approach to managing their health and preventing disease,” Mazzei explained. “We offer a wide range of free and low cost programs, classes, and services for the public.”

Programs include community seminars, health screenings, support groups and more. Many of these services are described in a free bi-annual Health & Wellness Catalog published by the Healthcare System. The catalog is also available online at

To help people with diabetes or at risk of getting the disease, the Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center has a dedicated team of certified diabetes educators, including Mazzei, who are trained to teach you the skills needed to control diabetes for a lifetime. Research shows education helps prevent, delay, or reverse complications of diabetes when people learn and apply self-management skills. The center also sponsors monthly diabetes education classes called Diabetes Matters. At these free seminars, expert speakers present science-based information to help increase your knowledge about diabetes.

In addition, the Washington Women’s Center provides a host of wellness and support programs and educational classes for local women. These include yoga, meditation, touch therapy, and a series of health and wellness-related lectures.

What You Can Do

Although some things like family history are beyond your control, you have the power to influence many of the factors that help prevent or control chronic disease and enable you to live a longer, healthier life. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Become a mindful eater. Recognize that you have the ability to control what you eat and how much exercise you get. These tools can improve your overall health and longevity.
  • Read nutritional food labels. Find out about the latest changes in labeling requirements by going to, the website of the U.S. FDA. Recommendations for daily intake are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. By going to you can determine your own recommended daily calorie intake, based on your height and weight.
  • Educate yourself about ways to improve your health through nutrition, exercise and other strategies. Take advantage of local, evidence-based wellness and prevention programs, including those sponsored by Washington Hospital Healthcare System.

Online Resources

To find out more about the health status of Americans and recommendations for prevention and wellness, go to, the web site of the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. To learn more about the Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020, go to For more information on the changes in nutritional food labeling, visit For information about wellness and prevention programs from Washington Hospital Healthcare System, go to