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Food and activity diaries: Introduction to analysis

Analyse data collected in a food and activity diary. Dr Natasha Barrett explains the relationship between diet, exercise and cardiovascular disease.
Welcome to the food and activity diary analysis. My name’s Dr Natasha Barrett, and I’ll be helping you get started in the analysis of your diary. This week, we’ve been learning about the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, and the ways that people can try to slow down or prevent them from occurring through lifestyle choices, such as diet and activity levels. You’ve been monitoring both your diets and activity levels in a diary, and now we’re going to analyse it. You have a choice of two worksheets, one on food and one on activity. If you’re short of time, you may wish to use just one of the worksheets. But if you’ve got more time, then of course work through both of them.
This process has three stages. First, the analysis worksheet will guide you through collating the data from your diary. This will take a little bit of time. Next, you’re going to analyse your data by comparing your values to typical values and the recommended values in the UK. How many people eat the recommended five portions of fruit and veg per day? By analysing your diary, you’ll be able to see where you meet the recommendations and where you don’t. And what about physical activity? How many of us carry out the 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week in blocks of 10 minutes or more?
The third stage is when you have the option of anonymously uploading your data to the course site. This automatically calculates course averages that we’ll then be able to discuss. One of the great things about this activity is that it not only helps deepen your understanding of the topic, but it also lets you reflect on your lifestyle choices. If after competing this activity, you feel you’d like to change either your diet or activity levels, seek appropriate advice where necessary. For example, some people should only undertake physical activity under the supervision or recommendation of their health care provider, whilst dietary changes can both affect and be affected by both medications and other medical conditions, such as diabetes.
So again, medical advice may be necessary. So to get started, choose which one you’re going to do first, and then work through the appropriate worksheet. I look forward to seeing what you’ve all been eating and doing in the last couple of weeks by looking at the course averages and discussing the patterns that we see. Lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, eating a healthy diet, and taking regular activity are all important ways for us to gain ownership of our health. I hope that you enjoy this activity and find it both useful and helpful in deepening your understanding of the topic.

Over the last four weeks you have been invited to complete a diary of your food intake and activity levels. In the next few steps we’ll look at how to analyse this data and understand what your results might mean for your heart health.

If you’re short of time you might like to focus on analysing just your food diary, or your activity diary.

We’ll provide you with two worksheets that you can use to collate the data from your diaries, plus full guidance on how to use the worksheets and what to do with your data. Once you’ve collected all of your information, you’ll have the chance to enter it into an anonymous poll, which will allow you to see how you match up to the average of learners across the course. You’ll then have the chance to discuss these findings with other learners. Remember that you don’t have to share any personal details or let other people see your data.

What will this data tell me?

This analysis will give you an insight into the average diet and activity levels of learners on this course. It’s important that you remember that this shouldn’t be used diagnostically – making changes to your lifestyle based on the data in this exercise could have a negative impact on your health. If you’re concerned about your diet or your activity levels you should speak with a healthcare professional who will be able to give you advice based on your specific situation.

Intrigued? Apprehensive? Share your thoughts on what you think you might find out in the comments.

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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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