Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Larger Than We've Ever Been: New Data on the Nation's Weight Problem

In blunt terms: we're larger than we've ever been.  That's the essential conclusion of new research published online yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine by CNiC's Dr. Graham Colditz and Dr. Lin Yang.  In the analysis, which looked at a nationally representative sample of Americans from 2007 - 2012, the authors found that 75 percent of men, and 67 percent of women age 25 and older were either overweight or obese.  This is a significant increase from rates seen 20 years ago, when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women were either overweight of obese.

With overweight and obesity linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lower quality of life, and premature death, these new numbers are likely to translate to huge medical and financial burdens both for the nation, and for individuals and families.  They also point to the need to make large-scale meaningful efforts in combatting our nation's weight problem.

While weight is in many ways an intensely individual issue, it's difficult to overestimate the impact that our social and physical surroundings have on the choices we make.  It's harder to be physically active, for example, when there are no nearby sidewalks, bike paths, or affordable gyms.  It's harder to make healthy food choices when our friends only like fast-food, and there are no good grocery stores in our neighborhoods.

To truly combat the weight issue, therefore, we need to make changes at all levels of society - from the individual on up to the federal government - changes that foster healthy choices, healthy attitudes, and sustainable approaches to weight, physical activity, and healthy eating.

As Yang and Colditz conclude: "Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environmental interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required."

Friday, June 12, 2015

New eBook: TOGETHER - Every Woman's Guide to Preventing Breast Cancer

After posting a handful of excerpts over the past year, we're excited to announce the official launch this week of the e-book: TOGETHER - Every Woman's Guide to Preventing Breast Cancer.

Written by CNiC's Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH and Hank Dart, MS, along with noted Washington University School of Medicine researcher Katherine Weilbaecher, MD, TOGETHER takes a generational approach to breast health and cancer prevention, with practical tips and useful messages that apply as early as childhood and remain important throughout life.

 In TOGETHER, you'll discover that:
  • Over half of all breast cancers can be prevented. 
  • You can lower your risk with many healthy behaviors you already know about – and some you don’t. 
  • Simple tips can help your daughters and granddaughters improve their breast health and lower their adult breast cancer risk. 
  • Women at high risk of breast cancer can take important steps to lower their risk and protect their health. 
  • It’s important for all of us to work together to improve the health of our families and our communities. 
  • A few key rules can help you make sense of confusing health news. 
  • Simple recommendations can help you lead a healthy life as a cancer survivor.
TOGETHER can be dowloaded for free in three e-book formats (epub, mobi, and pdf) and will soon be available through Apple iBooks.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Do You Stand for 2 - 4 Hours During the Work Day? New Recommendations Suggest You Should

It's said that sitting is the new smoking.  And while this is an exaggeration of sorts, there is certainly something to it.  Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and premature death.  And like smoking, sitting too much has health risks even for those who are a healthy weight and who exercise regularly.

But the good news is that it takes very little effort to counteract the effects of being too sedentary.  Standing -- surprise, surprise -- works well.  A saunter will work, too.  The key is to simply take regular breaks from sitting throughout the day.  It can take some time to make these standing breaks a habit, but once you get into the groove, you realize that many of the things you do sitting, you can also do standing, with some minor adjustments.

For many people, the lion's share of sitting takes place at work.  This makes the workplace a perfect target for battling our too-sedentary lifestyles, which happens to also be the conclusion of a new statement out of the U.K. by Public Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company.   For those who work primarily at desk-based jobs, the report recommends two hours of accumulated standing or light activity throughout the day, working up to a total of four hours each day.  Much of this can be done taking short walking breaks or working standing up, using "sit-stand" workstations, which have been shown in early studies to significantly increase work-day standing time.  These workstations offer options for working while standing or working while sitting, and they are becoming increasingly common choices in workplaces and home offices.

In a prepared statement, specific recommendations from the report include:
  • 2 hours daily of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total of 4 hours for all office workers whose jobs are predominantly desk based 
  • Regularly breaking up seated based work with standing based work, with the use of adjustable sit-stand desks/work stations 
  • Avoidance of prolonged static standing, which may be as harmful as prolonged sitting 
  • Altering posture/light walking to alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and fatigue as part of the adaptive process 
  • As well as encouraging staff to embrace other healthy behaviours, such as cutting down on drinking and smoking, eating a nutritious diet, and alleviating stress, employers should also warn their staff about the potential dangers of too much time spent sitting down either at work or at home
Of course, the last thing many of us want to hear is one more health recommendation about physical activity, especially when most of us don't exercise enough as is.  But, really, the recommendations to avoid extended sitting can be really easy to put into practice.  You don't get sweaty.  You don't need special shoes or clothes.  And you don't need to go anywhere to do it.

All you really need to do is take a stand from time to time.

Photo: Flickr/Ahmed Hashim, Creative Commons License