On average, most Americans give up their New Year’s resolutions on January 17. Nearly two-thirds of all US gym memberships go utterly unused. We all want to be healthier, and most of us probably even know how. So why are we so bad at changing our behavior?
Stephen Kopecky, MD, a cardiologist and double-cancer survivor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., kept coming up against this question when advising his patients on how to reduce their likelihood of heart disease; his patients’ eyes, he says, would “glaze over.” So he decided to distill his advice into a book, Live Younger Longer, which breaks down what we need to do to enjoy the best possible health well into advanced age.
“About 85, 90 percent of where our diseases come from is our lifestyle,” he says, citing six major risk factors—unhealthy eating, physical inactivity, chronic stress, smoking, inadequate sleep and overconsumption of alcohol—leading to poor health and premature death via all manner of illness. Yet they’re within our control. Kopecky’s book is a manual of simple, practical advice to prevent the type of low-grade chronic inflammation that is thought to cause disease, including following a Mediterranean diet and a high-intensity-interval workout regimen. But it also spends ample time on habit formation, which might be what matters most. “If you know what’s important to keep your body healthy, you’re really way ahead of the game,” Kopecky says.
“The problem, of course, is doing it.”