Column: The perfect storm is on its way to our midsectionIt is now November and the perfect storm is on its way. No, I’m not talking about the weather, although we all know the gales of November can bring in big storms.
By: Ann Busche, For the Budgeteer News
It is now November and the perfect storm is on its way.
No, I’m not talking about the weather, although we all know the gales of November can bring in big storms. I’m talking about the shorter days that make it more difficult to go for a walk before or after work, the cooler days that make it more tempting to just curl up on the couch with a good book and a blanket, and the beginning of the holiday season when there is food galore!
This perfect storm is barreling down, not on the midsection of the country, but on your midsection!
I know, you’re thinking, “But it’s the holidays, they come only once a year, don’t be such a downer.”
And it’s true, there’s nothing wrong with overindulging every once in a while. The challenge, it seems, is that so many special days — your birthday, all of your co-workers’ birthdays, Valentine’s Day, the big Fourth of July picnic — too come only once a year. Pretty soon over-indulgence is the norm and healthier habits are forgotten.
The result is an ever-growing midsection, and that’s exactly what is happening in the United States.
It was 1985 when data on obesity as a nation was first collected and there were only two categories: states where less than 10 percent of their population was obese and states where 10-14 percent of their population was obese. Minnesota was amongst the states with less than 10 percent.
In 2010 (the last year data is available; see www.cdc.gov/obesity/data) there are six categories: less than 10 percent, 10-14 percent, 15-19 percent, 20-24 percent, 25-29 percent, and over 30 percent.
The two original categories of less than 10 percent and 10-14 percent could have been eliminated because no states fell into these categories; in fact, there are no states in the 15-19 percent category either.
The healthiest state, Colorado, has 21 percent of its population that is obese; that’s one in five individuals.
The first time a state had more than 30 percent of its population as obese was 2004; in 2010 there are 12 states in this category.
What has happened in Minnesota since 1985 and less than 10 percent of the population as obese? We are now at 24.8 percent.
The reason for concern is that being overweight increases the risk of premature death and many diseases and health conditions, including the following:
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol
• type 2 diabetes
• coronary heart disease
• some cancers
The current generation of children is the first generation projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This seems odd given the medical advances that have been made in the prevention and treatment of disease.
However, if you look at the leading causes of death, many of them don’t require medical treatment; they require individuals to make healthier choices.
Public health has a long history of societal change, from putting fluoride in water to decrease dental disease and cavities, to the pasteurization of milk to stem the transmission of tuberculosis, and the elimination of exposure to secondhand smoke in public places.
Obesity has become a key focus for public health to address by working to educate and support individuals in making behavioral changes which will improve their health and wellbeing.
It’s just as important to change the environment so that the healthy choice is the easy choice — e.g., having locally grown and healthy foods available and changing community infrastructure so that sidewalks for walking and biking are available and safe.
Start small and make one healthy decision this holiday season, and then continue this throughout the year; even one small change can make a big difference over time.
Ann Busche is the director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County. Contact her at 726-2096 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org