"Are we getting healthier?" is not an easy question to answer — and most statistics would point to a rather strong “No” overall.
There is light on the horizon, if current statistics hold true. In one example, a recent study found that Americans are eating fewer calories than just a few years ago. The drop, however, is small (about 118 calories) in comparison to our overwhelming problem of obesity in the U.S.
Narrowing down the health question to age groups and regions, the trends can be a bit surprising. Overall in the U.S. we are living longer, but that seems to be related more to improvements in medicine and surgical abilities. Seniors are showing both good and bad health stats in areas like hip fractures on the decrease and obesity on the increase.
For example, Idaho saw an 11 percent increase in obesity, going from 26.9 percent to 29.9 percent in adults over 65 in the last few years. Take states like Colorado with the lowest rate of obesity at 21.3 percent or Utah with the fewest number of cigarette smokers in the country and it becomes clear that where you live can trend you up in the health and fitness statistics.
The real question should be around a healthy lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle is trending up and more people are becoming aware of the importance of good nutrition and exercise. For example, eating fast food is trending down nationally and forcing fast food chains to adjust their menu toward healthier fare. So what do the numbers say about our health and fitness in the United States — and for that matter, what do we know about our regional state of health?
Let’s consider the following CDC statistics on recent health statistics:
1. In the U.S., 69 percent of adults over the age of 20 are considered overweight or obese.
2. 20.5 percent of teenagers are considered obese.
3. Three-quarters of us in the United States suffer stress-related illnesses — to the point they cause real health concerns.
4. One in five adults have been diagnosed with arthritis.
5. Poor nutrition has become one of the largest contributors to health-related issues like obesity and hypertension.
6. 25.6 million of us in the United States have diabetes.
7. 16.3 percent of U.S. adults have high cholesterol of 240mg/dL or higher.
8. It is estimated that 83.6 million of us in the United States (that is one in three) have one or more types of cardiovascular disease.
At the same time, there are statistics that may show areas of improvement supporting the idea we are becoming more health-conscious.
1. In the U.S., adults over the age of 18 years that meet Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity is sitting at 49.2 percent. This is a small increase from the 2006 number of 41.4 percent.
2. Adults in the U.S. have reduced their smoking habits, dropping from 24.7 percent in 1997 to 16.8 percent in 2014.
3. According to the USA Marathon report in 2014, 550,637 people finished marathons in the U.S. — the highest ever recorded.
4. Fitness center memberships are up from 32.8 million in 2000 to 54 million in 2014.
5. In the last 25 years, cardiovascular deaths have seen a decline at a rate of 2 percent to 3 percent yearly.
6. Since 2009, roughly 42 percent of adults reported using the Nutrition Facts Panel most or all of the time when making food choices.
7. Overall in the last few years working age adults have decreased the amount of unhealthy Trans fats and increased fiber in their diets. This is based on findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
8. Studies done on U.S. eating habits using a measure called the Alternate Healthy Eating Index found the average score increased from 39.9 in 1999-2000, to 46.8 in 2009-2010, so it appears we are eating healthier.
As you can see, many of the health issues that so many of us face can be corrected by adopting fitness, good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. It is also clear that our improving health footprint is changing in very small increments, but it is headed in the right direction.
We are quickly approaching a new year and many of you will make short-lived resolutions to improve your health and fitness. Some of you will actually make lasting shifts in your lifestyle and see real changes in your health and fitness. Others will do nothing and add to the dismal statistic of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
I can’t stress enough the importance of a good diet in whole foods. If the gym is not for you, then walk 20 minutes a day or shoot for 10,000 steps each day. Whatever you decide to do, include exercise and healthy food for the coming years of your life.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.