Obesity is no longer a minor problem that affects only a few people, or is limited to certain areas. The obesity epidemic has become one of this country’s most serious health issues. We can begin by looking at statistics, and see how obesity in America has changed.
How Common Is This Issue In The United States?
Recent statistics show more than a third of adults in America are obese. Additional statistics show that most states in America report between ten and nineteen percent of high school students are obese. The rates for both adults and children are increasing.
While there is no state in the United States that has an adult obesity rate of less than twenty percent, there are some regions and states where it is most prevalent. There are more adults with significant weight problems in the Midwest and the South. Mississippi, Alabama, and West Virginia rank at the top of the list.
Health Risks Associated With Adult Obesity
Adults who are overweight increase their risk of premature death and a wide range of serious health issues.
Excessive weight is a significant risk factor in heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallstones, reproductive issues, and cancer.
Health Risks Associated With Childhood Obesity
- The rate of obese children in America has almost tripled since the 1970′s.
- Children and teens who are obese are at a much higher risk of remaining obese throughout their adult lives.
- In addition to the increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, overweight children are more prone to mental health issues and social problems. They are more likely to do poorly in school.
What Are The Causes Of America’s Obesity Epidemic?
There are a number of factors involved in the increase of weight problems.
Diet is one factor. Unlike in generations past, more people today rely on fast food and processed foods. Fresh, natural, healthy foods are not as common as they were in the past.
A second factor is America’s eating habits. In the past, it was common for individuals and families to prepare and eat meals at home. Mealtimes were a regular part of life. Not only has meal preparation declined, so has the practice of eating three meals per day at the table.
Instead, more people eat when they feel hungry or crave something. This leads to poorer food choices, less attention to serving sizes and nutrition, and binge-eating.
A third factor is a sedentary lifestyle. Neither children nor adults are as active as they were in the past. Fewer adults perform physical labor at their jobs, and fewer children and teens engage in physical activity for recreation.
A fourth factor is acceptance of weight problems. In areas where weight issues are common, adults and children alike believe it is acceptable and normal. When nearly everyone a person knows is overweight, he is less likely to realize it is a problem.
A fifth factor is using food for comfort and stress relief. People who are often depressed, worried, or anxious are more likely to binge-eat, and consume high-calorie foods with little nutritional value.
The High Cost Of This Epidemic
As individuals who are obese are more likely to suffer from health issues, it results in more people needing medical care.
There are other costs that do not directly involve health care. Illness can keep children out of school, and keep adults home from work. Children and adolescents can lose important portions of their educations, and adults can lose income.
What Can Be Done To Promote Health In America?
First, parents must be educated about the importance of weight control. Rather than urging people to use crash diets and diet pills, the emphasis must be on healthy food and healthy eating habits. Parents need to learn, and set a good example for their families.
Second, we should encourage people to develop the practice of preparing and eating meals at home. The old-fashioned practice of having three meals per day at the table kept people healthy in the past, and can do so again.
Third, physical activity is not only important for weight control, but is essential for overall health. While there are more adults today whose jobs do not involve physical activity, and youngsters spend more time in school and on non-physical recreation, everyone can learn the importance of physical activity.
Fourth, America must return to the days when food was considered a source of nutrition and enjoyment. Food cannot relieve stress, depression, or sadness, nor should eating be based on whatever a person craves at the moment.
While some locations and groups have higher rates of weight problems than others, this epidemic affects everyone. Education, and a drastic change in lifestyle habits, can be the start to improvements. Obesity in America does not need to increase.