Quick, what comes to mind when you think of Cuba? Cigars, Elian Gonzalez, and boat people? Hmm...
Well, researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore are determined to change that. Their recent study points to Cuba as a "model" of societal health. Not an intentional model, but a model none-the-less.
The researchers studied the impact of the economic downturn in Cuba from 1989 to 2000. Though there were some negative health impacts, due to the increased reliance on rice and sugar cane as food staples, the overall impact was surprisingly positive.
As a result of the economic hardship, many Cubans both reduced calories and increased exercise levels - a potent combination for health. The average caloric intake dropped from about 2,900, the year before the downturn, to less than 1,900 five years later. The obesity rates also sank dramatically, dropping by over 50% through the decade.
The results were impressive. Between 1997 and 2000, deaths attributable to type 2 diabetes declined by 51%, deaths attributable to heart disease by 35%, and to stroke by 20%. It's a remarkable testimony to the power of diet and exercise.
Said Manuel Franco, MD, the lead study author, "Population-wide approaches designed to reduce caloric intake and increase physical activity, without affecting nutritional sufficiency, might be best suited for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and diabetes."
So, there you have it - the "Cuban Model." The choice is up to you. You can implement the plan now, by reducing your calories and getting out there and active, or... You can wait for the next economic crisis in Cuba and plan an extended "health sabbatical."To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To explore the advantages of leading a healthy lifestyle, see this from The HealthCentral Network.