It’s been in the news for some time now that Americans’ state of health has been declining in recent decades, to the point where it’s now referred to by many as a national health crisis. In fact, the United States now ranks 17th in 32 developed nations, with a life expectancy of 75 (Japan tops the list at 79.1 years). What are the factors leading up to this disturbing news? How did we get into this predicament?
Obesity still remains a real problem. Take a trip to the mall or the store, and you’ll most likely see more really big people than you did ten years ago. Why is that? It ties in to lifestyle and lack of exercise, of course. When people drive to work, get out and walk into the office, get back in the car and get fast food for lunch, then drive home again and stay sedentary until time for bed, they’re going to put on weight. But there’s more to it than just a sedentary lifestyle.
Corn and flour are cheap, and foods that are heavy in refined flour or corn products tend to be cheap…and the carbohydrates in those foods aren’t easily processed, so the body tends to convert them to fat. There’s a direct correlation between cheap processed foods and the number of obese poor people in America – and the low cost of corn, high fructose corn syrup and flour all ties in to agricultural subsidies that help keep those prices depressed. Obesity, of course, is a major contributor to orthopedic problems, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and numerous other ailments.
Some trends have started to turn in the other direction. Fewer people smoke, more people are getting at least some exercise, fewer people drink heavily, and more people are starting to become engaged and conscious of their own health. More Americans are getting tested for HIV, and more are staying current on their vaccines (including seasonal flu shots). 48.4% report regular aerobic exercise, the highest number ever recorded. Still, many adults avoid seeking health care due to the cost and their lack of insurance, and trends still seem to point to poor dietary choices as one of the biggest obstacles to good health in Americans. Hopefully as behaviors improve, America can turn the corner soon.