UPDATE: One of the most interesting studies relating to health will be published in the December issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute by Dr. James Enstrom from UCLA. According to a newspaper release about the article, Enstrom followed 10,000 active Mormons for eight years to determine the effects of living the LDS Church's Word of Wisdom on the incidence of disease and death rate.
The males involved in the study were all high priests, the highest lay position in the church, and the women were wives of the high priests. This group was selected because there was a better chance that they would more strictly adhere to the church's law of health.The study specifically examined three general health habits: non-smoking of cigarettes, regular physical exercise and regular sleep (Mormons are counseled to get to bed early and to arise early). The study found that middle-aged high priests who met the guidelines had only 34 percent the rate of cancer mortality of middle-aged white men in the United States. The high priests also had only 14 percent the rate of cardiovascular disease mortality and 22 percent the rate of overall mortality.
The middle-aged wives of high priests who followed the same health habits had only a 55 percent rate of cancer death, a 34 percent rate of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 47 percent rate of overall mortality compared to middle-aged white women.
Using these data, a 25-year-old male's life expectancy would be increased from 74 years to 85. A female of the same age would experience an increased life expectancy of 86 years instead of 80.
The main message from this study relates more to the effect that lifestyle has on health than on religion, although some experts think that personal faith is an essential ingredient for better health. It is clear from this and other research that all of us need to re-evaluate our lifestyles and begin to do those things that lead to better health and increased life expectancy.
What are the necessary changes for health? One book, "Living Well: Eight Fundamental Principles for Developing a Health Lifestyle," suggests the following factors:
1. Water - The average American suffers from the lack of water and doesn't even know it. This book suggests dividing your weight by two to get the number of ounces you need to drink daily.
2. Rest - Good rest habits help restore health and energy. Most of us need seven to eight hours sleep a night.
3. Fresh air - It is important to air out rooms you live in from time to time. You should also breathe deeply and maintain a good posture.
4. Sunshine - This book suggests a moderate exposure to sunshine for better health.
5. Exercise - Exercise enhances use of oxygen, increases metabolism, helps burn extra calories, reduces stress and provides a feeling of well-being.
6. Nutrition - Eat more complex carbohydrates and fiber and less salt, fat and sugar. According to this author, you should eat a large breakfast, a moderate lunch and a light supper.
7. Self-control - Make a commitment to improve your health with a conviction that offers no excuses.
8. Personal faith - An essential key to good health involves the mind and spirit as well as the body. By interweaving all of the principles above with spiritual trust, you can achieve good things for yourself, both physically and spiritually (from "Personal Vitality," November 1989).