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Facts About Healthy Living

A six-year study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found three behaviors exerted enormous impact on mortality: not currently smoking, consuming a healthier diet, and moderately exercising at least 21 minutes a day. People with one of the three behaviors had a 40 percent lower risk of dying within that six-year period. Those with two out of three more than halved their chances of dying, and those with all three reduced their chances of dying in that time by 82 percent.

A similar study measured how much vitamin C subjects had in their bloodstreams, as vitamin C level was considered a good biomarker of plant food intake (and hence was used as a proxy for a healthy diet). The drop in mortality risk among those with healthier habits was equivalent to being 14 years younger. It’s like turning back the clock 14 years just by eating and living healthier.

How else might we slow aging?

The mitochondrial theory of aging suggests that free radical damage to our cells’ power source (mitochondria) leads to a loss of cellular energy and function over time. According to the theory, the resulting cellular damage is what essentially causes aging. Aging and disease have been thought of as the oxidation of the body; oxidant stress is thought to be why we all get wrinkles, why we lose some of our memory, why our organ systems break down as we get older.

Basically, the theory goes, we’re rusting.

Eating antioxidant-rich foods may slow down this oxidant process. On average, plant foods may contain 64 times more antioxidants than animal foods. Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices each meal continuously floods our body with antioxidants to help ward off stroke and other age-related diseases.

Consuming fruits and veggies, and not smoking, has also been associated with longer protective telomeres, the caps on the tips of our chromosomes that keep DNA from unraveling. (Think of the plastic tips on the ends of our shoelaces.) Each time our cells divide, a bit of that cap is lost. Telomeres can start shortening as soon as we’re born, and when they’re gone, we’re gone. The food we eat may impact how fast we lose our telomeres: Consumption of refined grains, soda, meat, and dairy has been linked to shortened telomeres, while fruit, vegetable, and other antioxidant-rich plant food intake has been associated with longer ones.

A global movement of 5.5 million young people making positive change, online and off! The 11 facts you want are below, and the sources for the facts are at the very bottom of the page. After you learn something, do something! Find out how to take action here.

  • More than 1/3 of adults and over 12.5 million children and teens in the US are obese. In the last 30 years, obesity in children and teens has nearly tripled.
  • One can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and the average American adult drinks 500 cans of soda every year, estimating about 52 pounds of sugar consumed in soft drinks alone.
  • In a survey of 9th through 12th graders in 2011, 13.1% of the teens admitted to skipping breakfast in the past 7 days, while 11.3% had drunk 3+ servings of soda per day in the same time frame.
  • Excess meat consumption is bad for the planet, for our health, and for the well-being of animals. Ask your school to host meatless Mondays in your cafeteria to keep meat consumption down. Sign up for Meatless Mondays.
  • In 2011, more than 15% of the students were overweight, and more than 12% admitted to starving themselves for 24 hours or more in the last month in an attempt to lose weight.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it feeds your body and mind with the necessary nutrients and energy to function throughout the day. Eating breakfast regularly will also help keep weight off because it gets your metabolism going.
  • Teens need 9+ hours of sleep per night for their bodies to function properly. Less than 1/3 of high school students in 2011 reported getting 8 or more hours of sleep per night.
  • Physical activity like aerobic exercise (walking, running), muscle-strengthening (weight-lifting), bone-strengthening (jumping rope), and balance and stretching activities (yoga, pilates, dancing) are especially beneficial to a healthy body.
  • Foods that don't expire contain unnatural preservatives, additives, and chemicals that deteriorate your body. Focus instead on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, low-fat dairies, and above all, moderation in whatever you eat.
  • The rate at which your body burns calories when you are resting is called your "resting metabolic rate." If you cut calories below what's needed for RMR, your body will go into survival mode because it doesn't have the energy to perform basic functions.
  • For teens, the recommended caloric intake is 2,100 calories, but it is important to base your diet on your level of physical activity. Depending on how active you are, you can determine how many daily calories are healthy for your weight and lifestyle.