Americans are not particularly healthy. In fact, 75 percent of us are either overweight or obese, with 40 percent being obese.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says obesity has risen “significantly” in the last decade. Serious diseases that can result from obesity affect approximately 122 million. And another 100 million are on track to experience severe health issues.
Even the American Journal of Public Health says that obesity causes about one in five deaths in the U.S. each year.
Why is this happening? We live in a country with high standards for food preparation and packaging. And plenty of options for exercise. So, why?
Poor Diet = Health Concerns
Unfortunately, many Americans choose a poor diet. And that results in serious consequences.
We know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. But we too often select deep fried meals and sugar-filled snacks and desserts.
Of course, the ill health many Americans are experiencing is doing more than making them feel lousy. It’s draining their bank accounts. The rates of healthcare are out of control. And just about everyone is feeling it.
The sicker Americans become, the worse it’s going to get. The total economic rate of obesity alone is $1.72 trillion annually. One study found that obese people have medical costs that are more than $1,400 higher per year than those at a healthier weight. A separate estimate was in the $2,700 range.
The federal government exhausted nearly $1.1 trillion on healthcare in fiscal year 2018. That’s according to the Tax Policy Center.
It’s a Weighty Issue
Loosely, obesity is defined as having an excessive amount of body fat. Tightly defined, it’s having a body mass index of 30 or more.
Traditionally, someone has been described as obese if they are more than 20 percent over their ideal weight.
But how is an ideal weight determined? It must take into consideration a variety of factors. Including a person’s height, age and build.
In other words, one size does not fit all. And at the rate Americans are going, they’re not going to be able to fit in their current size much longer.
West Virginia Tips the Scales
Americans across the country are overweight or obese. In fact, every state has more than 20 percent of adults with obesity.
Certain states have a higher percentage of obesity than others. Consumer Protect is an advocacy group designed to – you guessed it – protect consumers.
Their study revealed that West Virginia has the highest percentage of obese citizens at 38.1 percent. Not surprisingly, the state also ranks high in health problems associated with obesity.
Mississippi is the second most obese state (37.3 percent), according to the study. This state also ranks last in life expectancy. As well as next to last in the level of those who report engaging in no exercise.
Colorado Is No. 1
Colorado ranks No. 1 when it comes to the lowest level of obesity (23 percent). That’s attributed to healthier eating habits. And more time lived outdoors in various activities.
Also in the top five is Hawaii, which has the highest lifespan in the country. Its citizens live 6.5 years longer than those in Mississippi, on average.
The bottom five states for engaging in exercise are Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
The top five states for getting a good amount of exercise are Washington, Colorado, California, Alaska and Utah.
Solution Is There for the Taking
Is there any silver lining here? Fortunately there is. The challenge is getting Americans to understand the dangers of obesity and responding appropriately.
Will they be willing to trade in foods that cause obesity for vegetables, nuts, beans, and fruits? Plus plant oils, yogurt, fish and whole grains?
And can food producers become convinced that adding sodium, sugars and trans fat is negatively affecting consumers’ health? And thereby adding to the cost of healthcare?
If so, it seems likely the obesity problem could become more manageable. And if that happens, perhaps healthcare costs will go down.
Teach Your Children Well
Eating habits start early. So, a number of programs have been developed to help children eat a more healthy diet.
Most of these are connected with public school systems. Efforts are being made to improve the nutritional value of lunches. And change vending machine options.
These initiatives are crucial. The average U.S. child eats only one-third of the fruits and vegetables recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That’s according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
And obese children are 10 times more likely than their peers to become obese adults.
Exercise Those Demons
Of course, eating right is just one side of the coin. Exercise is the other. Americans have to get up and get moving to avoid obesity.
The World Health Organization tells us that exercise is essential for people 50 years of age and older.
In fact, they’ve listed physical inactivity as the No. 4 cause of death in the world.
The CDC calculates that 28 percent of the population over age 50 is physically inactive. And that most of our decrease in strength and stamina comes from physical inactivity.
Advantages of Exercise
There are countless advantages to getting the proper amount of exercise. From weight management, increased strength and energy, lower blood pressure, to even better sleep and cognitive function.
But unfortunately, the obesity epidemic in America is a public health crisis.
However, individuals can help bring it under control if they choose to.
A healthy diet and sufficient exercise can keep most of us from becoming an undesirable statistic.