Friday, March 23, 2018

Weighty Matters: The Obesity Epidemic Keeps Advancing

A new federal analysis shows that the adult obesity epidemic in the United States keeps on getting worse.  Between 2007 and 2016, the percentage of the adult population that was obese increased from an already very high 33.7 percent to a staggering 39.6 percent.  And the rate of those severely obese increased from just under 6 percent to close 8 percent over the same time period (see figure).  Severe obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher, which translates to someone 5'8" weighing 265 pounds or more.

The one silver lining of the new report is that obesity in youth appears to be staying relatively steady.  While rates of obesity in ages 2 - 19 years increased from 16.8 percent in 2007 to 18.5 percent in 2016, it was not to a degree that reached statistical significance.  

Still, the continuing trend in adult obesity remains extremely troubling - not only for individuals who suffer from increased risk of cancers, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and lower quality of life but also for the nation as a whole that experiences higher health care costs and lost productivity. 

These numbers show us how important it is to keep up our efforts to address this issue - and in new and innovative ways.  We live in what many classify as an "obesigenic" society.  Technology, workplaces, and infrastructure are actively designed to cut down on physical activity. And ads and other cues that surround us encourage us to overeat - and often with unhealthy choices. 

Without diminishing the important innovations we've experienced as a society over the past decades, we need to harness our energy to address such unhealthy outcomes by making important changes at all levels of society - from schools and workplaces to neighborhoods and individuals to local and federal policies.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring Ahead: 5 Reasons Spring is a Great Time to Work on Your Health Goals

On top of all the other wonderful things about spring, it can also be a great time to work on improving your health.

Don’t groan.

While working on your health goals may not be as fun as watching spring training or walking through a blossom-filled park, your health is important. Very important.  And not only to you but also to those close to you. So why not take a little time to improve your health at a time of year that can give a you a leg-up toward success?

You can re-up on a New Year’s resolution – which for some people can get a bit wobbly around this time of year – or you can leave winter in the rearview mirror and pick something brand new to work on.

And Washington University in St. Louis’s re-designed website, Your Disease Risk, can help. First launched in January 2000, it provides disease risk estimates and personalized prevention tips for 12 different cancers, plus heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and COPD.

Newly updated to work on all screen sizes – from desktop to phone – it is an evidence-based resource that translates the latest science on health and disease prevention into simple messages people can use. And its new behavior rankings function can now show you at a glance which healthy changes may lower your risk of disease the most.

“We designed Your Disease Risk to be an engaging tool to help people learn about their risk and improve their health,” says Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, Professor of Medicine and inventor of the site. “And the new behavior rankings provide added information that can help with setting health goals.”
Washington University's newly updated Your Disease Risk 

So, as you consider the goals you want to work on the rest of the year – and how you’re going to meet them – consider why spring can be a great time to do just that.

It’s warming up
There’s something special about the chill of winter giving way to the warmer days of spring. And the warmer weather just invites you to get outside. And that’s a great thing because it opens up opportunities to be active and engage in other healthy activities – whether it’s going for a bike ride or walking to the local famers’ market to buy healthy food.

It’s inspiring
It’s hard to beat the sights and smells of spring for inspiration. Just seeing the plants and trees bursting with new leaves and color can give you some extra energy to tackle your goals.

It’s in season
A healthy diet is key to an overall healthy lifestyle, and eating better is toward the top of many people’s to-do list. And in spring, healthy eating gets a bit easier – and a bit cheaper. More produce comes into season and farmer’s markets start up again.

It’s a long time ‘til next winter
Many people find winter a tough time to keep up their health routines. The days are cold, the nights are long, and the food-filled holidays seem tailor made to throw you off kilter. By working on new habits this spring, you’ll be able to lock them down before next winter, giving you a better chance of keeping on track through the winter holidays and beyond.

It’s now
One of the best reasons to start making healthy changes this spring is simply because it’s now. Working on new behaviors isn’t always easy, but there’s power in just getting started. The sooner you start, the quicker the new behaviors will become a routine part of your days. 
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You can find motivation year-round to improve your health. But there is something special about spring that can be particularly helpful in setting your health goals and beginning to working toward them. But whatever you choose to work on, start small, build up slowly, and be sure to enjoy the warmer weather along the way.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Quick Nutrition Tips for Lowering the Risk of Colon Cancer

It's March, which means it's both National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month. And that's an apt combination.

A number of healthy diet tips can help lower the risk of colon cancer. And they're all pretty straightforward.

Eat whole grains
Whole grains are filled with fiber and other healthy nutrients. And eating more of them can help lower the risk of colon cancer. Instead of foods like sugary cereals, white rice, and white bread, choose whole-grain cereals, whole-wheat bread, and brown or wild rice. If you're not used to eating whole grains, add them to your routine a bit at a time - building up to three or more servings a day. They taste great but can take a bit of getting used to.

Limit red meat, especially processed meat
Eating too much red meat – like steak, hamburger and pork – increases the risk of colon cancer. And processed meats – like bacon, sausage and bologna – raise risk even more. Try to eat no more than three servings each week. Less is even better. Fish, chicken breasts and healthy plant-based proteins (like beans) are great alternatives.

Get enough calcium and vitamin D
There is good evidence that getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help protect against colon cancer. Shoot for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and about 1,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D.

Consider a multivitamin with folate
In addition to calcium and vitamin D, multivitamins also contain folate, which has been shown
in numerous studies to lower the risk of colon cancer. Avoid mega-dose vitamins. A standard multivitamin is best.

Drink only moderately, if at all
Alcohol is a strange thing when it comes to health. It’s heart-healthy in moderation but can increase the risk of colon and other cancers at even low levels. So what does this mean? If you drink moderately (up to one drink per day for women, two per day for men), there’s likely no reason for you to stop. If you don’t drink, though, there’s no reason for you to start. Heavy drinkers should try to cut down or quit.

Maintain a healthy weight
It's not exactly a nutrition tip, but it's closely related. And at least 11 different cancers have been linked to weight gain and obesity, including colon cancer. An ideal goal is to weigh around what you did when you were 18 years old. Realistically, if you’ve put on weight, the first goal is to stop gaining weight, which has health benefits by itself. Then, for a bigger health boost, slowly work to lose some pounds.