Last night as I was preparing to head back out on the open road in my semi, I caught a bit on the local nightly news about the fast rising amount of heart problems in women as young as in their thirties. I wish I had been able to watch the entire segment, but what I did see made me think of all the people all of us can see on a daily basis who are prematurely afflicted with ailments which in years past were pretty much only seen in our senior citizens. I find it a sad state of affairs when a person under the age of sixty is all stoved up as if they are pushing eighty years of age. Even worse is when you look at the health problems in obese children who suffer from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and other dietary related issues. In every direction you look while out in public, you can see more individuals with weight issues than without. Fathom the irony of folks complaining about the skyrocketing costs of health care while they are sitting in a booth at the McHappyland restaurant shoving the super sized, number 6 value meal down their gullets and that of their children too. Griping about high medical co-pays between bites of Big Macs and swallows of a large chocolate shake, while never once taking personal responsibility for the impact those sometimes daily meals of convenience have on their own health.
Another area where I watch the dietary habits and health issues having an impact on younger adults under fifty is with my occupation as a professional trucker. As a commercial driver you must pass a Department of Transportation physical every two years, or once a year if you have health issues which could cause you to be unsafe on the road in an 80,000 pound truck. I simply find it astounding the amount of young men I have worked with sweating out these physicals because they are not only obese, but also have high blood pressure and or type 2 diabetes as a result of a garbage diet and living a sedentary lifestyle. Most will provide lame excuses why they can not eat healthy or exercise on a regular basis. The reality is, they are choosing not to eat healthy or to be active when they are off work, sometimes you just have to make time for yourself. It really is that simple in concept, you just have to make plans and then execute them. So many of these drivers will be worried sick about not passing their physicals and thereby losing their livelihood, yet return to the same old unhealthy practices once they have squeaked by another examination. My take on a lot of this is if you have time to drink a few beers during your down time, you have time to exercise. If you have the time to dine out, you also have the time to pre-measure and prepare healthy choice foods to take on the road with you.
Here are a few points to consider in regards to your health:
- The World Health Organization describes obesity as “an escalating epidemic” and one of the greatest neglected health problems of our time. Because obesity is a disease with multiple health risks, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer, the increasing rates of obesity are projected to result in increased rates of disability and preventable deaths. Let that last bit sink into you brain if you will, increased rates of disability and preventable deaths!
- Food portion sizes and obesity rates have grown at the same rate. In the 1960’s, an average fast-food meal of a hamburger, fries and 12 ounce cola provided 590 calories; todays fast-food value meals provide 1500 calories or more. This amount is about 300 to 500 calories shy in one meal of what a good many people should have spread out through an entire day. Even an extra 150 calories per day, the calorie cost of super sizing a soft drink, can convert to about 16 extra pounds of body fat per year.
- Vending machines selling soft drinks, high fat snacks, and highly sugared snacks are common in schools and work place break rooms. Milk, juices, water and healthy snacks are far less accessible. Vendors do not like to stock healthy items as they do not sell anywhere near as well as the sweet treats and soda pops do.
- Adults spend more time in sedentary activities, such as watching television, working on the computer, or commuting back and forth to work and school. If this is your lifestyle, then you really should consider cutting down on your intake of calorie dense, low nutrient foods before you become obese if you have not already become so.
- Children watch from 12 to 14 hours of television per day and spend an average of 7 hours a day playing video games. Parents, do your children a huge favor and buy them a bicycle, get them involved in physical activity. Get them involved in sporting activities with other children. Get them off their butts and active today.
- Today’s schools in many, if not most communities, offer fewer physical education classes for children. Get involved in your local PTA, or what ever it takes to make your voice heard that our nations children need to have these classes. Organize with other parents and be heard as one loud collective voice of concerned parents. Ponder this, does it stand to reason that the more obese and sedentary our teachers and administrators become, they will place more emphasis on physical fitness? Just asking…
The physical risks of being overweight and obesity are greater for some people than it is for others. The risks from obesity can depend on inherited susceptibilities to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. High blood pressure is exacerbated by weight gain. It can also be brought back down by weight loss. The same is true for type 2 diabetes, weight gain can bring in on, while weight loss with a healthy diet and exercise can also make it all but disappear. You can in fact get your A1C numbers back down to a healthy level. You do have a choice in how you live with type 2 diabetes, it does not have to be bad.
Because body fat crowds the heart and lungs within the body cavity, the risk of heart disease becomes elevated. That body fat smothers your heart as it tries to beat, which only serves to make it work harder to provide oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. When you are fat, your lungs can not take in their full volume of oxygen which causes your heart to have to work harder. Every extra pound of fat tissue in your body is fed by literally miles of capillaries. The heart in obese people must work extra hard to pump blood through the body. The bigger you are, the harder it has to work. Even an otherwise healthy heart can be overstrained by excess body fat. When a sick heart finds itself in this predicament, a sudden increase in workload can also result in a sudden decrease of work by your death. Cardiac arrest is much more prevalent in the obese than it is in the fit and active.
To close this all out; to those who would tell me their dietary habits, sedentary life and obesity is their personal life choice and is none of my business or that of anyone else, I have this retort. Your personal choice of a life style damn well is my business if only through my increased health care costs as a result of your unhealthy habits. Face this, it is a reality that we have a large number of people on preventable disabilities that every taxpayer and purchaser of medical insurance is subsidizing. That alone makes it the business of others, but lets take this farther:
- It is your employers business when you take excess time off from work because of ailments related to your obesity. Productivity is reduced and others have to pick up your slack. If you have asked for a job by filling out an application, then sat through an interview where you had ample opportunity to be informed of what the job responsibilities will be, then it is incumbent upon you to do as you agreed, and be there to work. Think about how many people you might know who miss work on a regular basis because they do not feel well as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.
- It is the business of your family and friends how you live your life. Listen up, in the moment it might not be the business of anyone else if you live on pizza and beer, especially if you are paying your own bills. However, if you eat your way to morbid obesity and have other lifestyle health related issues, it becomes the business of loved ones who might have to get your ass to the doctors and/or hospital visits. It becomes the business of others when someone has to cook and clean for you because you no longer have the mobility to do so yourself. It becomes the business of others when you can no longer take care of your own personal hygiene and someone has to clean your rear after bowel movements because you can not reach there yourself. And it becomes the business of others when they have to settle your estate and make your final arrangements with a funeral home and cemetary.
- Back to the hygiene issue, if you become morbidly obese and with other health issues which cause you to move into a nursing home, even trained medical staff with heavy duty equipment can have trouble keeping a fat body clean and free of rashes, sores and infections which come from hard to clean folds in the skin not getting cleaned properly and or often enough. This is a truly real issue, ask any medical professional who has ever had to deal with these circumstances. It may be their job to keep your nasty front and rear clean, but do you really want to rely on others to do for you that which you should be able to do yourself?
- Your lifestyle habits are the business of your children if you have them. What are the odds they are going to eat healthy and get in plenty of exercise if you do not live this way yourself? What are the odds they will grow to be adults with healthy habits if you have never instilled them into the kids in the first place? If you have children, you have a responsibility to help them to learn to live healthy lives. They can mess their own lives up easy enough without your help making it worse. If you care more for your children than you do yourself as any parent will, can you say you truly care when you are feeding them junk food all day as they sit in front of the television watching the latest episode of Spongebob or what ever is popular today? Are you going to accept having a ten year old who is obese, with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, or would you rather keep this from happening in the first place?
I know all of this might get a few a bit defensive, maybe even angry. When I author hard hitting pieces, they are meant to be a wake up call because I care about the welfare of others. I care about the society in which I live. I care about our young people who are being dealt a bad hand in life by parents who live unhealthy lives. I chose Brenda Sue to be my co-author at David’s Way because I know she also cares about helping others. I would rather give you uncomfortable truths than to sugar coat a lie to make you feel better.
Show others your love by being your own best friend. Love and fight for yourself. Take care of yourself in body and spirit. Live a healthy life, mentor and lead the way for our young in chasing dreams.