Do Harvard doctors practice what they preach? The Harvard Health Letter, the country’s first health newsletter for the general public, recently surveyed more than 15,000 Harvard Medical School faculty physicians about their health habits and found that, in many cases, yes, they do.
In this 30th anniversary year for the Harvard Health Letter, the editors decided to revive a tradition – two similar surveys were conducted in 1982 and 1992. Results from the 2,115 faculty members (1,185 male and 930 female) who responded were reported in the October issue.
Diet and exercise: Most (82 percent) eat breakfast regularly and many get at least three servings of fruit or vegetables a day. Few (12 percent) regularly eat at fast-food restaurants, about half drink alcohol in moderation (one to five drinks per week), and a solid majority (57 percent) use olive oil over less healthy fats.
As for activity level, more than half claimed to exercise at least three times a week at a moderate intensity or higher. These good habits pay off. The faculty’s average body mass index (BMI) was 23.9, which is on the high end of the 18.5-25 healthy range.
There were some outliers. The survey found 119 couch potatoes who reported exercising less than once a week for under 30 minutes at mild intensity. About half of these nonexercisers also reported eating less than two servings of fruit or vegetables on most days.
With about a third of the respondents overall either overweight or obese, it’s not surprising that almost half said they’ve tried to lose weight sometime in the past five years. “The members of the faculty that answered our survey seem to eat a little less, and to weigh a little less, than most people their age in the U.S.,” said Anthony Komaroff, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Health Letter.