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Helping yourself A vegetarian diet can help improve your health. Helping Yourself & Helping Animals Lifestyle choices make a difference By Nina Mak M ost people are familiar with the advice: improve your health, watch your diet, and exercise regularly. It turns out that by adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can not only improve your health and lower your risks of disease, you can also help save animals too. Helping Yourself Several of the major diseases affecting quality and length of life in the U.S., such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer, are considered to be largely preventable. Researchers have gathered a large body of evidence showing that changes in cer- 16  2010 compassion into action tain lifestyle habits can significantly reduce the risk of developing these diseases.1 Unhealthy eating habits and inactivity, for example, have been blamed for the increasing prevalence of obesity in the U.S. Obesity, in turn, is one of the major risk factors for developing not just heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but also arthritis, respiratory problems, reproductive complications, and depression.2 In 2008, 27 percent of the U.S. adult population was estimated to be obese, compared to 12 percent just 20 years ago.3 It is estimated that, if the trend continues, at least 38 percent of people will be considered obese by 2018, and the U.S. will spend more than $344 billion on health care costs related to obesity, leading health advocates to describe obesity as “the fastest growing public health challenge the nation has ever faced.�4 Indeed, almost one third of children aged 2-19 years are overweight or obese.5 Considerable research is done on animals as scientists tinker with genes one at a time or experiment with the effects of various compounds in an attempt to discover the next blockbuster drug to treat obesity. Human-based epidemiological studies, meanwhile, have shown that making a small number of lifestyle changes, such as reducing meat consumption or adopting a vegetarian/

AV Magazine Issue 1 2010

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