Poor Health of Americans

Kaitlyn - Syracuse, New York
Entered on August 27, 2008

Are all of those news reports, statistics and facts about a rise in health problems completely looked over? Or should we really turn our heads and listen to the facts and advice that are given to us. I believe in promoting fitness and an overall improvement of health to all ages in our country. The United States is by far one of the fastest paced countries in the whole world. We barely have time to relax and have time for ourselves. America, as a nation has had an increase in health issues mainly due to obesity, but also due to eating disorders. Is this because we don’t have time to workout and watch our diets because of our fast pace society? Or is it because we are simply lazy? Although technology and medical advances are becoming more abundant, and our life expectancy has increased greatly, as a nation, we are still very unhealthy.

All throughout high school I was a pretty dedicated athlete and I knew how to take care of my body, I knew what I needed to be healthy and how to be a healthy athlete. However, as I looked around me I saw that some of my fellow teammates were not doing the same. They were eating very unhealthy, or barely eating anything at all just to maintain a certain weight because of the weight classes they had to qualify for in rowing. Many of the girls had health problems and would pass out during practice because they were not getting the nutrients they needed. The amount of energy and calories we were expending at practice and during races were so high, we needed to eat enough calories to balance our bodies. The coaches would have their talks with the girls, and even their peers and parents would talk to them but nothing seemed to be working. This was because they felt that in order to be a good rower, they wanted to be in a lower weight class and by doing this they were endangering their bodies. I believe that we need to educate more on the seriousness of healthy eating habits. When I left high school and came to college I didn’t think I would be around any more eating problems and I figured everyone would figure out who they were by now. I was wrong. My neighbor where I lived last year had an eating disorder that she made very public. Everyone on my floor knew exactly what was going on and no one would do anything about it. I knew she was probably scared and knew she couldn’t handle it herself, so she made it public so that someone could maybe help her. Finally, feeling obligated, my roommate and I decided to go and talk to her. We didn’t want to make it a pressuring situation but simply a friend to friend conversation about something we had noticed. She told us that she had tried to previously get help and that there really wasn’t anything that we could do for her because it had been going on for a couple years now. We asked her to come to the gym with us several times and to come to the dining hall and just get a healthy meal, but she never took the offer. My roommate and I really didn’t know what to do because at this point, it was getting serious. She would pass out after barely eating that day and still tell us that everything was fine and her weight kept fluctuating which is very unhealthy. So we decided we should tell our RA and ask her for advice. Eventually she went and talked to her but it was really too late for any help. She was so stuck to her eating habits she had attained over the years that it would take serious help to reverse it. She had already caused serious long term health problems.

Eating disorders include binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia. Between about 5% and 10% of girls, and women in the U.S have eating disorders (5 and 10 million) and nearly 1 million men have some sort of eating disorder. Those numbers include just the reported disorders; there are many people with disorders that go unseen and unheard. About 80 percent of women are dissatisfied by their look or appearance and one in every two women are on some sort of diet or meal plan. Even young kids are worried about their weight and appearance. This is because of the media and news telling everyone that “thin is beautiful”, when really we all have a different set body sizes and weights for ourselves.

Though this is just one example of a health problem centered around eating, the other extremity is obesity. According to the American Sports Data, 31% of Americans are overweight. This percent has more than doubled since 1980, where the percentage of overweight Americans was 15%. Not only are adults overweight, but our children are also becoming more and more unhealthy as the years progress. A report done in 2004, conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) stated that 16% of children (over 9 million) are overweight and that number has nearly tripled since 1980.

Health care costs and other economic costs have risen, for one, because of obesity. This is because obesity causes more health problems. Examples of these problems could be chronic diseases and illness. (i.e. heart disease and diabetes) Both of these are linked to obesity. Children born in the year 2000 are likely to become diagnosed with type II diabetes at some point in their life. These illnesses cost as much as 100-150 billion in health care spending each year. Overweight and obese individuals have health costs that are up to 1,500 dollars more than that of a healthy individual. For children health care, the costs have more than tripled over just 20 years from 35 million to an astonishing 127 million.

There is such a vast spectrum of health problems that it affects the country as a whole so we need to put a stop to the increasing amount of obesity in America. There are several ways we can do this. Promoting more physical activity is a huge part of staying fit and healthy. Our elementary schools and high schools aren’t being as strict about the activity that is done in gym class as they were in previous years. Elementary aged children are supposed to have about 125 minutes of activity per week, and 225 for older children. Those numbers are not being reached which causes increased numbers of inactivity and an increased number in body fat. The second way we can improve the health of America is to make healthier eating habits. Too many Americans rely on fast food because they have no time to cook for their family. Some people will believe that its genetics, metabolic or environmental issues, when that’s rarely the case. It’s because we are eating too much and moving too little. Even sitting by the T.V for a long time instead of being active is a long term cause of obesity. We can teach our children to enjoy healthy foods by giving them the education early, and not exposing them to the bad foods. We need to share with them the health risks that come along with unhealthy eating and how exercise along with healthy eating will make for a very healthy lifestyle.

I personally know that it’s hard to eat healthy and find time to exercise daily, but staying healthy now contributes to a healthy future. We may be a fast paced country, but how are we going to succeed in our lives if a third of our population is unhealthy and overweight. We need to take a stand and educate our schools about healthy eating habits as well as teach them good habits about activity and exercise.