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Summer 2007 Vol. 7 No. 2



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Photo by Bachrach FROM THE PRESIDENT

Institute of Medicine


Advisers to the Nation and You

The National Academies traditionally provide advice to government agencies, the Congress, and other policymakers. More and more often, we also offer advice to individuals. In an area such as health, responsible decisions by the public go hand in hand with policy decisions guided by evidence.

Two articles in this issue of In Focus on nutrition standards for foods in schools and ending the tobacco problem highlight topics that simultaneously inform national policy and guide the day-to-day habits of people of all ages. In keeping with the advice from a number of Institute of Medicine studies, and based on my own experience in medicine and public health, I have developed a set of 12 tips you can use to take charge of your health. Here are a few of them:

If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start. Despite extensive evidence that proves the deleterious effects of smoking, more than one in five American adults still smoke. Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of premature death and disability in the United States. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on tobacco-related illness.

Eat a variety of foods, none to excess. Many diet fads have come and gone over the years -- did you know that graham crackers were first introduced as a health food? The best diet for you -- featuring a varied and proportionate menu -- is one that you can stay on forever. Some key elements of a healthy diet can be simply described: eat more fruits and vegetables, decrease your saturated fat intake, eliminate trans fats from your diet, and reduce your use of salt.

Make exercise a routine part of your day. Abetted by a poor diet and lack of exercise, obesity has become the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. The most reliable and lasting way to get the exercise you need is to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine: walk up the last flight or two of stairs, get off the bus or subway a stop early, and be physically active for a part of every day.

Here is probably the most important tip of all: Enjoy life. When Eubie Blake, the great jazz pianist, was asked about how he felt as he approached his 99th birthday, he responded, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”

If you would like to hear or read all 12 tips for taking charge of your health, a Sounds of Science podcast and a PDF file can be downloaded from <media.nap.edu/podcasts>.


    HARVEY V. FINEBERG
    President
    Institute of Medicine



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Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences