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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Scanning through blog after blog, a common theme floods the month of August. Several entries appear to cite this article or some other article that follows the same story. I read through the article and the wording throughout struck me to be quite odd.

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar.

Almost one-third of obese adults, or nearly 20 million people, also were in this healthy range, meaning that none or only one of those measures was abnormal.

Yet about a fourth of adults in the recommended-weight range had unhealthy levels of at least two of these measures. That means 16 million of them are at risk for heart problems.

The wording appears to compare healthy to unhealthy. Most comparisons make a clear point by showing the contrast between like things. In any case, I later found this to be how the original journal article was also worded. I decided to stop reading journalists’ take on the paper and decided to show the data from it directly.

 

The following chart shows the percentage of people that have risk factors associated with heart disease.
  Normal Weight Overweight Obese
20-34 years old 10.3% 52.3%
35-49 years old 16.9%  – 68.9%
50-64 years old 41.7%  – 79.6%
65-79 years old 54.7%  – 85.7%
80+ years old 56.2%  – 77.1%
20+ years old 23.5% 48.7% 68.3%

Unfortunately the journal article did not mention age specific percents for the overweight category.

Looking at the data in that form one does not see obesity as equaling unhealthiness, just significantly MORE unhealthy than being a normal weight. Also the risk factors affect the obese at a very young age. This should have been what most of the news sources were reporting. Instead we saw headlines like “Some Obese Individuals Appear ‘Metabolically Healthy,’ Without Increased Cardiovascular Risk,” “Half of overweight adults may be heart-healthy,” or “Overweight doesn’t always mean heart risks.”

The news spread like mad into blogs and with that came several entries like this. Browsing through the comments one quickly sees how the majority feels that they fall into the obese but HEALTHY category (statistics from the study shows otherwise). The sad fact remains that this study only focused on ONE aspect of health. Who knows what other diseases follow similar trends. 

In any case, the study shows that not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle (regardless of size). BMI remains an archaic method of determining health. Childhood obesity needs to be addressed, as potential risk factors are significantly higher for obese children.

Living a high quality life free from disease may be impossible, but cutting risk factors can aid you in the goal. This study shows that losing weight can help.

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The CDC ranks Alabama as the 2nd heaviest state with 30.3 % of the population having a BMI of over 30. The state has decided to give state employees a lose weight or pay ultimatum. The state employees (~40,000) have a year to lose weight or start paying $25 a month toward their usually free plan. The Alabama program will go by the body mass index chart — anyone with a BMI over 35 will be charged. 

Alabama, which already charges smokers, will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don’t work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behaviors. The State Employees’ Insurance Board this week approved the plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don’t have free health screenings.

If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program, or take steps on their own to improve their health. If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won’t be charged. But if they don’t, they must pay starting in January 2011.

William Ashmore, executive director of the State Employees’ Insurance Board, said research shows someone with a body mass index of 35 to 39 generates $1,748 more in annual medical expenses than someone with a BMI less than 25, considered normal.

“It’s terrible,” said health department employee Chequla Motley. “Some people come into this world big.”

“The state will feel good about itself for offering something and the person of size will end up paying $300 a year for the bad luck of having a chronic disease his/her state-sponsored insurance program failed to cover in an appropriate and meaningful fashion,” said Walter Lindstrom, founder of the Obesity Law and Advocacy Center in California.

Computer technician Tim Colley already pays $24 a month for being a smoker and doesn’t like the idea of another charge.  “It’s too Big Brotherish,” he said.

E-K. Daufin of Montgomery, a college professor and founder of Love Your Body, Love Yourself, which holds body acceptance workshops, said the new policy will be stressful for people like her. “I’m big and beautiful and doing my best to keep my stress levels down so I can stay healthy. That’s big, not lazy, not a glutton and certainly not deserving of the pompous, poisonous disrespect served up daily to those of us with more bounce to the ounce.”

The major problem I have with this idea stems from a recent study that showed that ~70% of “obese” people and about ~24% of “normal” weight people have health conditions that were commonly associated with obesity. Weight serves as an indicator of health but it does not appear to be the best indicator of health. Since they screen everyone, simply charging those with health abnormalities might be the fair way to approach this issue. 

It should be interesting to see how this ends up.

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If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.
-Buddhist saying

We live in a largely individualistic society. Our culture emphasizes self-sufficiency and control in the pursuit of achieving individual goals. We must make an effort to guard against the tendency to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of our fellow human beings. The tendency towards selfishness rather than giving.

I’m not saying we all follow this, it simply happens, through busy work schedules, stressful events, and just our hectic lives in general. Even for those of us that follow a self-centered approach, helping others has its own advantages:

  1. It makes you feel better about yourself.
  2. It connects you with another human while helping them.
  3. Improves the state of the world.
  4. Your good deed could lead to a chain of good deeds.
By no means does helping have to be a production, simple signs that we acknowledge the existence of other people might be enough to make someone feel a little better. Volunteer, donate, teach, help, listen, smile, and most importantly, love. Let’s make this world a better place, put a smile on someone’s face.
 

8/18/08 – 4.1 miles in 00:35:18
8/16/08 – 6.42 miles in 01:01:21

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Advances in medical science paired with behavioral and social changes has led to an increase in life expectancy and lowered death rates. With these advances unlikely to stop, quality of life becomes the focal point.

A 21-year study examined the effects of running on disability and mortality rates of adults over 50. At the start of the study in 1984, many scientists thought vigorous exercise would do older people more harm than good. Some feared the long-term effects of the then “new” jogging craze would be floods of orthopedic injuries, with older runners permanently hobbled by their exercise habit. Emeritus Prof. of Medicine James Fries came up with a hypothesis called Compression of Morbidity, which holds that healthy lifestyles will not only prolong survival, but will also decrease the number of years with disability.

The researchers at Stanford began tracking 538 runners from a running club over age 50, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. The subjects answered yearly questionnaires about their ability to perform everyday activities such as walking, dressing and grooming, getting out of a chair and gripping objects (this served to assess disability). The researchers used national death records to learn which participants died along with the cause of death. Nineteen years into the study, 34 percent of the non-runners had died, compared to only 15 percent of the runners. Death rates were higher in every category {Cancers, Cardiovascular (strokes and coronary artery disease), Neurological, and Infections (Pneumonia)} for non-runners when compared to the runners. 

On average both groups in the study became more disabled after 21 years of aging, but for runners the onset of disability started later. “Runners’ initial disability was 16 years later than non-runners,’” Fries said. “By and large, the runners have stayed healthy.” Not only did running delay disability, but the gap between runners’ and non-runners’ abilities got bigger with time.  

A companion paper also debunked the long standing myth that runners have a higher prevalence of knee and joint problems. The paper also showed that running was not associated with greater rates of osteoarthritis in their elderly runners. Runners  in the study did not require more total knee replacements than non-runners.  

The basic message of the study states that exercise at any age helps reduce disabilities while increasing longevity. That said, the overall feeling of well being and the reduction of tensions as a result running would have been more than enough reason to continue my running habit. Being a relative newcomer (1 year) myself, I will post some tips on how to start running and keep at it. 

 

8/14/08 – 2.32 miles in 18:15 (7:51 per mile pace)

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WordPress opens a world of discovery, the streams of passionate and knowledgeable writing flows endlessly. Amidst this river of ideas, being a strong proponent of health and well-being, I encountered several Fat Acceptance blogs under the health section (Shapely Prose, Junkfood Science, & Eat a Cheeseburger). Having become an ardent reader of these blogs, opinions bounce around my head waiting to be released. Many of these blogs seem to be intolerable of outside opinions so my thoughts/comments remain unpublished, this will serve as my outlet.

The concepts proposed by most FA websites promote self-confidence, with a call to end societal pressures to obtain THE ‘ideal’ body presented by the media. The sites also address the ineffectiveness of dieting and the potential dangers resulting from it. They deal with obesity as a human rights issue with a call to end all size related discrimination. All these valid points serve a wonderful purpose and can enrich the lives of many people. 

On the surface everything seems perfectly normal, but when one peruses the comments and reads some of the eating habits promoted by the sites, one quickly sees the detrimental impact. On numerous occasions people write what can only be labeled as careless eating habits. Claiming that if you want something go ahead and have it. While I am not against the mentality of eating whatever one wants, one needs to realize that overeating never serves a good purpose. 

Many FA sites spew contradictions. I have observed people claiming that weight loss as an impossible, unreasonable goal. Most argue that they live a fat but fit lifestyle exercising regularly and eating well. Yet they also take pride in reckless eating. Some go further insisting that excess weight is harmless to health.

FA sites urge acceptance of something that can be changed–excess weight–while trying to change what they cannot: the reality of its health risks. To be sure, some of us are born with larger bone structures, or lower metabolisms but few of us were born to be obese. We can change how much we exercise and what foods we choose. Unlike acceptance, these choices require effort. Let’s put forth the effort and help each other. 

 

8/03/08 – 5.53 miles in 50:53

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Dunkin’ Donuts has a new menu for customers watching their health and weight. The “DD Smart” menu, which will debut in stores Aug. 6, will feature new flatbread sandwiches. Customers will be able to choose either a turkey sausage egg-white sandwich or a vegetable egg-white sandwich. Both will be under 300 calories with 9 grams of fat or less, the company said.

“We just felt it was important to provide some choice in our menu,” said Will Kussell, president and chief brand officer.

The new menu will also include current menu items that have 25 percent fewer calories, sugar, fat or sodium or are made with more “nutritional ingredients”. Current products that will join the new sandwiches on the menu include a multigrain bagel, Cofee Coolatta with skim milk, Iced Latte Lite, a reduced-fat blueberry muffin, and more.

The entire DDSmart menu can be found here.

Hopefully in the future, success of this ‘smart’ menu over their old offerings should drive them to make this their ‘regular’ menu. I am strong proponent of fast food joints offering smarter choices not in special menus but making those choices the norm. It’s all about small steps and this decision by Dunkin’ Donuts provides a step in the right direction.

 

7/30/08 – 4.66 miles in 47:37 (slow run with Sparky)

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Chili’s, Outback, T.G.I. Fridays… Sit down full-service restaurants remain a hot spot for anyone looking for good filling meal. As great as the food and atmosphere might be, a lot of damage (as far as goals to get fit) can happen here. Most of the entrées at these establishments contain well over 1000 calories, couple that with a drink and you might end up consuming over 1500 calories in one meal!

While many might argue that self control issues need to be addressed to prevent over-eating. The easiest way I have found to control this bingeing involves taking a ‘to-go’ container with you. As soon as your food arrives, simply place a good portion of it into your container.

The reasons I promote taking your own container is one can pack away the food as SOON as it arrives not after one is already stuffed and because of the environmental impact of the styrofoam boxes. Styrofoam is not a part of most curbside residential recycling programs, even though it is labeled with the recycling number 6. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene and is extremely bulky and lightweight, which makes it costly to recycle polystyrene in small quantities.

The second important step involves limiting/eliminating the amount of soda you consume at the establishment. Free refills often urge people to down several cups. These cups often hold 22-32 ounces, that’s more than enough. Limiting oneself to water might be the safest way to avoid any possible urges to order a refill.

These little changes in habits might seem pointless but everything adds up. The weight loss you might not see now will arrive 6 months later. I by no means am a pinnacle of human fitness, verbalizing these goals just helps me keep with it.  Just enjoy the journey and try to keep everything moderate.

7/24/08 – 4.6 miles in 42:34

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