This article originally appeared in the Opinion section of the Deseret News, February 17, 2017 by UHA President/CEO Greg Bell.
“If you have your health you have everything.” Or so we’ve always heard.
Good health is foundational to many important things in life — work, maintaining your home and yard, playing with your kids and grandchildren, active leisure, traveling and touring, serving others and myriad other things.
While some disease comes upon us by the luck of the draw, our own lifestyle choices determine much of our health. In the U.S., our behavioral choices account for fully two-thirds of disease and serious physical impairment. An NIH study found that the top factors causing the U.S.’s chronic diseases are tobacco use, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Fully 45 percent of U.S. citizens suffer from at least one serious chronic medical condition. Chronic disease and conditions account for a whopping 70 percent of deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control tell us that obese people are at significantly elevated risk of developing conditions leading to premature death such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, some cancers, depression and anxiety. Indeed, obesity approaches smoking as a risk factor for death.
Utah’s obesity rates have skyrocketed from 9 percent in 1990 to 24.5 percent in 2015 — nearly triple. Please pause and consider that statistic. It is estimated that by 2030, heart disease will have quadrupled and obesity-related cancers will have doubled. A quarter million Utahns will have diabetes in 2030. Sadly, many children are becoming obese at very young ages, impairing their development and holding them back from the activities and fun of a normal childhood.
We all know the problem: We eat too much sugar, too much fat, too much salt and too much … period. High-calorie fast-food is ubiquitous and inexpensive. People consume absolutely huge amounts of calories. A normal adult male should eat between 2,000 and 2,200 calories a day. But some restaurant desserts check in at 1,000 calories, as do a big restaurant breakfast and a large bowl of pasta with meatballs. Three slices of pizza can approach 800 calories, and lasagna has about 700, depending on serving size. An apple fritter, two doughnuts and a healthy-looking muffin each weigh in at about 400 calories. We are indeed eating ourselves to death.
Last week, I saw a dear friend who had lost nearly 100 pounds. His doctor told him he was going to die because of his diabetes and other complications. He took the warning to heart. His diabetes has all but disappeared, and he feels great and looks terrific.
Losing weight is one of the hardest things in the world to do. When you break an addiction to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, you can eliminate them from your life. However, when trying to break the food addiction, you still have to eat. It becomes a difficult and life-long task to limit your intake enough to lose extra pounds and then maintain a healthy body weight. Exercise aids greatly in losing weight, but study after study show that the primary contributor to weight loss is to eat fewer calories.
Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, was distressed to learn that his city was rated as the most obese city and the worst for walking in the U.S. He looked in the mirror and realized he himself had several extra pounds. So he challenged his constituents to lose a million pounds together, which they did. He persuaded taxpayers to float an $800 million bond to build trails, parks and recreation centers. He created squads of health workers to go into the least healthy parts of town and go door to door and enlist people to help with diet and exercise. They built neighborhood centers with health and workout facilities in low-income neighborhoods. Oklahoma City dramatically increased the numbers of trails and sidewalks to make shopping, dining, commuting and other activities accessible for walkers and bikers. They built the largest rowing/kayaking center in the U.S. Early signs are that they are bending the curve.
For your future, your family, your productivity and enjoyment of life, resolve now that you are going to take charge of your health — especially your eating and exercise. You will feel good about yourself and likely enjoy a high quality of life in the years to come.