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Good Question: What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A new study in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings comes to a pretty depressing conclusion.  Only 3 percent of Americans live what's considered a healthy lifestyle.

Researchers from the University of Mississippi and Oregon State University looked at the habits of almost 5000 people.  Of their four criteria, researchers found very few people meet them all.

So, what does it mean to be healthy?  Good Question.

"That's a very difficult question to answer," said Dr. Bryan Nelson, a family practice physician with HCMC's Golden Valley Clinic. "Healthy, in my personal opinion, is when a person does what is necessary to reduce the risk of having a heart attack and stroke down the road, is able to be happy and able to do what they want in their life."

The Mayo Clinic Proceedings study looks at four criteria – smoking, physical activity, healthy eating and body fat percentage.

When it comes to smoking, 71 percent of people report to be non-smokers.

Nearly half (47 percent) of people get the recommended amount of exercise – 150 minutes/week.

"I tell patients routinely, I don't care what kinds of activity they're doing, as long as they're getting their heart rate going," said Dr. Nelson.

About 38 percent of people report eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetable, whole grains and limited fats and sugars.

Finally, body fat percentage seems to be one most people cannot achieve. Only 10 percent of people in the study reported having healthy levels of body fat. For men, that's less than 20 percent. For women, it's less than 30 percent.

Dr. Nelson says people don't necessarily need to rush out and get their body fat checked, but they should keep their blood pressure and glucose levels in check.  They should also sleep well and listen to their bodies, and be able to do the kinds of physical activity they'd like to do.

"It's very difficult to be able to do it all," he says. "We've got busy lives. A lot of people say they'll do this, and they start doing it but then they fall back into their old habits."

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