Obesity can lead to bigger health problems

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2008

According to a recent community health survey conducted by the Lawrence County Health Department, the top three health concerns in our community are 1) alcohol and other drug abuse, 2) chronic disease (cancer, heart, lungs, diabetes, and high blood pressure), and 3) poor diet/inactivity.

The Centers for Disease Control states “since the mid-70s, the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children. Data from two NHANES surveys show that among adults aged 20-74 years the prevalence of obesity increased from 15 percent in the 1976-1980 survey to 32.9 percent in the 2003-2004 survey.”

The CDC also says these increasing rates raise concern because of their implications for Americans’ health. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for many diseases and health conditions, including:

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high blood pressure, high cholesterol level or high levels of triglycerides, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep disturbances, respiratory problems, as well as some cancers.

Body mass index, or BMI, is a number that describes the relationship between height and weight. It can indicate whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.

“Healthy” or “normal” BMI is 18.5-24.9.

According to the CDC, most people with a BMI in the obese range (equal to or greater than 30) will have increased levels of body fatness, which puts them at risk for chronic disease.

Unhealthy eating and inactivity contribute to obesity which contributes to chronic illness.

Good nutrition can help lower the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Changing only a few things, such as getting 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, portion control, decreasing daily intake of calories and fat grams, and drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day will help decrease body weight and BMI.

There are programs, such as Weight Watchers, designed to help people lose weight in a healthy manner and to keep it off for the rest of their lives.

There are also several Web sites that can help, too, such as www.weightwatchers.com, www.americanheart.org, and www.mypyramid.gov.

Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of heart attack, colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure and may reduce the risk of stroke.

It helps contribute to healthy bones, muscles, and joints, helps relieve arthritis pain, and reduces stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It can also help improve physical function and provide many benefits for those who already have heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, arthritis, lung disease, and other chronic diseases.

And it helps with weight loss and weight control.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to be beneficial.

Adults of all ages benefit from moderate-intensity physical activity, such as 30 minutes of walking most days of the week. Walking can be done anywhere (outdoors, in a mall, on a treadmill), and is very inexpensive.

All that is required is a pair of walking shoes. There are also several gyms in our area that can help design exercise programs specific to needs and goals of their clients and have trainers available to oversee those programs.

No matter the age, fitness level, or whether or not a person has been inactive for a long while, good nutrition and regular, moderate-intensity activity can make you healthier and improve your quality of life. If you would like more information, please call Lawrence County Health Department at 740-532-3962.

Maxine Lewis is the coordinator of cardiovascular health programs for the Lawrence County Health Department.