Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Everyone

Without going into why this topic comes to mind . . .

You and every other person now living, who ever has lived or ever will live, have been given a gift. No two are the same. None are perfect. Some get broken, some you abuse, some you worship, some you ignore, some you adore.

We’re talking about your body—the system of skin and tissue that holds together your bones, muscles, blood vessels, veins, organs—you get the idea. It’s the one thing each of us truly has in common. And more than 65 percent of us don’t take care of it. In fact, the most of us seem to be doing our best to destroy it.

We feed it too much, or we feed it the wrong things. We don’t ask enough of it. We don’t let it do what it was designed to do. We clog it up with chemicals, additives and just plain junk. We pay more attention to what we do and don’t put in our kitchen sinks and garbage disposals than what we put into our own bodies.

Statistics provided by the National Institutes of Health show that 67 percent of Americans age 20 and older are overweight, 34 percent are obese, and projections indicate 40 percent of the population will be obese by 2018—in just 7 years.

Now, consider that life expectancy during the 20th century increased more than 27 years, from 49.2 to 76.5 years, largely due to the reduction in mortality among children. But that was then, and this is now, and for the first time in 200 years, today’s children are looking at shorter lifespans than their parents. Why? Childhood obesity and associated chronic illnesses. The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases. This is our own doing.

We have developed a discouraging set of self-destructive habits. The U.S. food industry aggressively markets high-fat, high-sugar, super-sized foods. We tend to literally, eat it up. It’s fair to say it’s not all our own faults, but the question is whether our collective weight gain and sedentary behaviors are more a matter of individual responsibility, or whether a society that makes it so easy to get fat should look closely at itself and its values. At stake is the health of millions of Americans, the lives of adults and children, and more than $147 billion in annual obesity- related health care costs. And, where the blame lies is not as much the issue as what we intend to do about it.

Obviously, we can’t control every factor that influences our health and wellness. And yes, healthy people do get sick. But, there’s a lot we can control. Maybe now’s the time to think about and do those things we know make a difference—and keep those birthdays coming.

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