Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Care and Obesity

Americans love to eat. As a matter of fact, a study of employees released this month by Kronos has found that 65% of all workers are overweight or obese. Out of the study group analyzed of almost 10,000 people, those aged 40 and above showed that 65% of women and 77% of men fell into this category. Those under 40 were not as bad--52% of women and 68% of men were overweight or obese. Man! Are we fat, or what? It's a wonder that Americans don't fall over and can't get up. What showed up in the report in addition to the stats on who weighs more was that the overweight status of all of these workers (the majority of the population) has a huge impact on overall health. And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of BMI (body mass index) screening as an important first step in identifying individuals who are overweight or obese.

Obesity can result in greater health risks including heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, and other chronic diseases including some cancers. No wonder health care is so expensive! Kronos has also stated that businesses in the U.S. suffer about $13 billion in losses every year due to health issues of obese employees. That's alot of Big Macs and Super Size Fries. Wellness programs, weight loss, and employer sponsored health initiatives and screenings would definitely help impede the battle of the bulge. Americans must consider the long term effects on obesity. Choosing to ignore being significantly overweight only postpones the inevitable health problems that will develop over time. There are steps that can be taken to achieve and maintain weight at an acceptable level of health. Certainly the lifestyle possibilities can improve when obesity is not a concern.

Obesity prevalence has increased significantly among adults and children in the U.S. over the last two decades. As noted in Medical News Today, a new study appearing in the journal Nutrition Reviews reveals that characteristics of neighborhoods, including the area's income level, the built environment, and access to healthy food, contribute to the continuing obesity epidemic. Researchers also found that neighborhoods with decreased economic and social resources have higher rates of obesity. Additionally, they concluded that residents in low-income urban areas are more likely to report greater neighborhood barriers to physical activity. There are limited opportunities for daily walking or physical activity and reduced access to stores that sell healthy foods, especially large supermarkets.

Obesity is at an epidemic proportion even on a worldwide basis, and children are also becoming heavier. The British United Provident Association has stated that over a billion people worldwide are now overweight, and 300 million are considered clinically obese. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that 287 million overweight children have been noted in the world as part of studies they have done. The childhood obesity epidemic is really twin epidemics of poor nutrition and diminishing physical activity as indicated by scientific study with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Kids who load up on salty meals and snacks get thirsty, and too often they turn to calorie-filled sodas. Salt is a hidden factor in the obesity epidemic according to research reported last year from a British study published in an American Heart Association journal. About 80 percent of salt intake comes from processed food. Not only could less salt translate to fewer soft drinks and therefore fewer calories, but a modest reduction in salt has already been shown to lower blood pressure, which would lower the risk of later-in-life heart attack and stroke.

According to the American Obesity Association, an alarming 15.5 percent of children between the ages of six and 11 are considered obese, putting them on a collision course with the nation's biggest killer: heart disease. Chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease and cancer, which take decades to develop, have their roots in childhood, when exercise and eating behaviors are being learned according to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Kids are getting too much of the bad stuff and not enough of the good:

TOO MUCH/MANY…-- sedentary time-- busy time-- calories found in lower-nutrient foods-- sugary beverages.

NOT ENOUGH…-- physical activity-- rest or downtime (To increase their energy, children usually eat more when they're tired.)-- fiber, vitamin C, calcium, iron-- low-fat dairy products.

Naturally, a medical professional should be consulted to assist anyone suffering from acute weight problems or obesity. Physicians and health care specialists can diagnose and treat this issue by recommending various treatments. Aside from medical problems associated with obesity, here are some simple tips to help combat weight problems:

1. Cut back on takeout, fast foods, and pre-prepared foods.
2. Prepare meals at home from scratch using fresh ingredients.
3. Stay physically active and start a fitness regimen.
4. Don't be overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once.
5. Gradually reduce intake of sugar and fat.
6. Involve the whole family in healthy eating and exercise.
7. Enjoy food, and enjoy being active.

Obesity will not go away anytime soon as a health care issue. Our intent is to fight it with the best resources available in the health care market place. Consultation with medical professionals, dieticians, weight loss management, and more will help put the focus on how to deal with this epidemic. Changes in lifestyle, exercise and fitness programs, and diet will also help.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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