March is National Nutrition Month!

I bet that title really caught your attention – or not.  However, it is National Nutrition Month and this is where I am going to get on my soapbox.  This country has a huge health crisis with regards to obesity.  We have been getting fatter and fatter.  Just look around you.  Out at restaurants, at the movies, at work, at school, everywhere you look there are individuals who are not just overweight but obese.  Unfortunately, this has trickled down to our youth.  Obesity is certainly a cosmetic issue but the health consequences (physical and mental) of obesity are exorbitant.  Diabetes, body image struggles, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, asthma, sleep apnea and many more.  Obesity can be correlated with all of these conditions.   Did you know that 30% of adults in the U.S. are obese (that’s 60 million people)?  The number of overweight children in this country has tripled since 1980.  The number one risk factor for Type II diabetes is obesity.  In the past, this disease was prevalent in older, overweight individuals.  The number of children now showing insulin resistance is at an all time high! 

I know we can’t all be “thin” and we don’t need to be.  We can strive to do better.  Unfortunately, the climate we are surrounded by daily does little to help us with this.   Everywhere you turn, what do you see?  I’ll tell you what I see.  advertisements for ooey gooey macaroni and cheese, supersized meals from fast food restaurants, huge pretzels at Wegman’s (I love Wegman’s, by the way), a restaurant entrée that could feed a family of four, and I could go on and on.  What else do I see?  Skinny women (truly anorexic looking) on TV, in magazines, in movies.  However, I do not see these women in my neighborhood.  That’s not true – I must admit living on the Main Line, I do see many  thin, attractive women.   In the majority of the country, this is not what you see.  How challenging it must be for our children, particularly young females, who must deal with these mixed messages every day.  Stuff your face with high calorie, high fat foods and look like the foursome from Pretty Little Liars.  Really??  We need to achieve some sort of balance here with regard to food, nutrition and a healthy body.

Cardiovascular health – extremely important as this in the number one cause of death for men and women in this country.    One in three deaths is attributed to cardiovascular disease, be it heart attack or stroke.  This is personal to me as I lost my father when I was twelve years old to a heart attack.   I know in his case this could have been prevented with the appropriate medical care.  Things were a bit different back then.  We know so much more now.  The one thing I can tell you is he was trim and active.  However, he had a STRONG family history of heart disease.  I suspect he didn’t pay much attention to what he was eating – this was back in the ’70s.  This disease can be prevented or at least can be slowed down in its progression.   As we know with cancer, you have to catch it in its early stages.  Same with heart disease.  If you have a family history of heart disease, with no other risk factors you should absolutely see a cardiologist for a workup no later than 45 years of age.  I  think everyone should see a cardiologist for a workup at age 50.  This is my personal recommendation.  What you don’t know, can hurt you.  Diet has a huge impact on our heart health.  A diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and fish will absolutely affect your cholesterol values for the better.  I know we hear it over and over again but it is so true.

Ok, I’ve gone on and on so what is the point?  Good nutrition is so vitally important to our overall health.  I guess I am urging people to take this month to assess their overall health and that of their family members.  If you have any health issues you need to attend to, please schedule an appointment with your doctor.  If you have any unusual symptoms, don’t put it off, see your doctor!  If you are feeling great but are 40 years old, start with a baseline physical with complete blood work.  Know your cholesterol numbers – overall cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides.  Know your blood pressure.  Follow it if your physician tells you it’s a little high.  Be proactive.  If you are not already physically active, start exercising!  It’s never too late to start.  No excuses!  Think about your eating habits.  Is there any small change you can make that might improve your diet?  I bet there is.  Model these good eating behaviors in front of your children.  Encourage your children to eat well and love themselves.  Let them know images we see in the media are often not realistic.  Strive to be healthy – eating well and exercising are the best things you can do to take care of the body you have been given.  Use the motto for National Nutrition Month, Get Your Plate in Shape, to make some positive changes this spring.  Please check out Get_Your_Plate_in_Shape for some general tips on eating better.  You can also go to www.eatright.org and click on the tab at the top “Public” and get more information.   I leave you with a quote that may sound a little extreme but take it for what it’s worth…

“When it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no “I’ll start tomorrow.”  Tomorrow is the disease.”  Terri Guillemets

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