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What Are the Long-Term Risks of Not Eating Healthy?

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
What Are the Long-Term Risks of Not Eating Healthy?
A diet rich in saturated fats, found in fatty meats and cheeses, increases the risk for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Photo Credit bacon and cheese image by dinostock from Fotolia.com

A healthy diet is associated with countless benefits, including an improved immune system, reduced risk for illness and disease and improved longevity. When years of unhealthy eating accumulate, these factors may suffer. An unhealthy diet increases one's likelihood of developing serious conditions such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. To prevent such illnesses, consider a balanced, nutrient-rich diet long before symptoms set in for best results.


Osteoporosis refers to brittle bones that run a high risk of breaking. According to Purdue University, osteoporosis appears primarily in elderly adults, often as a result of a lifetime of poor nutrition. As young adults, as young as early 20s in the case of women, calcium begins to gradually deplete from your bones. If you don't consume enough calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C or if your body weight remains dangerously low for extended periods of time, your risk for osteoporosis increases dramatically.

To reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis, consume a variety of calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified breads, cereals, juices and soy milk, spinach, salmon, sardines and tofu regularly. Citrus fruits, tomatoes and strawberries are positive sources of vitamin C, and you can get vitamin D by stepping out into the sun daily for short periods. Vitamin D is also present in most fortified dairy or soy products.

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Hypertension, or high blood pressure, occurs when your arteries become congested with plaque, which accumulates over time. Most arterial plaque is diet-derived and generally stems from saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol intake in addition to overeating in general. Experts at Purdue suggest that up to 50 percent of adults in America are at risk for developing hypertension, increasing their odds of stroke, kidney failure, heart attack and heart failure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, being overweight or obese, consuming too much sodium or too little potassium or vitamin D, and excessive consumption of alcohol are significant risk factors for hypertension. To prevent or help reduce high blood pressure, consume a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources, and cut back on added sugars, saturated fats and deep-fried foods. Regular physical activity is also a means of preventing hypertension.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular conditions and diseases, such as heart disease, arteriosclerosis, congestive heart failure, heart attack and stroke, are serious, potentially life-threatening diseases that may result from years of unhealthy eating. According the the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy diet is one of the most effective tools you have toward fighting heart disease. Foods such as saturated fats (found in fatty meats, cheese, butter and eggs) and trans fats (found in shortening, margarine, deep-fried foods and processed snack foods) increase risk for cardiovascular diseases. Nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other lean protein sources, may decrease risk for such diseases. In addition, the AHA recommends at least two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel, per week, as they provide the body with omega-3 fatty acids, heart-healthy fats the body requires.

To preserve long-term wellness and prevent diet-related diseases, adhere to a balanced diet, rich in a variety of nutritious foods. For best results, seek guidance and supervision from a qualified medical or dietary professional.

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