Only 10 Percent of American Adults Regularly Practice Healthy Habits

There are a few basic habits that can boost health, but too many of us say we're too busy to do them.

The results of an American Heart Association survey released in March indicate that only 12 percent of American adults regularly practice all of these healthy habits: good nutrition, exercise and oral care. Of those that listed an excuse for not following through with healthy habits, the most common culprit was said to be a lack of time.

Two health behaviors not practiced regularly are identified with improving cardiovascular health:

  • 80 percent of American adults responding to the survey say eating at least nine servings of fruit and vegetables daily is a struggle;
  • About 60 percent say it is difficult to get the American Heart Association's recommended levels of exercise (at least 150 minutes every week of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking).

The survey also showed that 25 percent aren't regularly practicing a healthy oral care routine: brushing twice daily and flossing at least once a day.

There was some good news, however. The survey showed that 90 percent of Americans are in the mindset to improve their health. The American Heart Association is urging them to start by making—and maintaining—healthy habits. Even incremental changes can have a substantial long-term health impact. The AHA's healthy living initiative, "My Heart, My Life" ("www.heart.org/myheartmylife"), promotes a simple set of solutions that focus on improving nutrition, physical activity and children's health.

"Whether it is simply adding a 30-minute brisk walk to your day, eating a few more fruits and vegetables with your meals, balancing your calories and physical activity to achieve a healthy body weight, or creating routine oral care habits—it all contributes to an overall healthier lifestyle," said Tracy Stevens, M.D., and AHA spokesperson and Kansas City, Mo., cardiologist.

Taking care of your mouth can be accomplished with a few simple steps. The American Dental Association recommends the following:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won't do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where toothbrush bristles can't reach. This helps remove the sticky film on teeth called plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.