November 2011 - Delicious Weapons of Mass Destruction

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When we think of weapons of mass destruction, rarely does food come to mind. Yet an examination of health statistics reveals that Americans—especially African-Americans—are literally eating themselves to death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 38% of Black men are overweight and 32% are obese. Black women fare about the same—with 30% overweight and 43% obese.1

Given that so many Americans are overweight, why sound the alarm for African-Americans? Because more than other racial or ethnic groups, African American overweight and obesity is costing our community lives, productivity, and money. More important, significant excess pounds threaten our future health status and longevity.  African-Americans continue to suffer higher rates of many potentially deadly diseases for which obesity is a contributing factor - Diabetes, Heart Disease, Hypertension and Cancer among them.

In addition to shortened lives and compromised lifestyles because of disease, millions of extra dollars are spent treating obesity-related illnesses. With health care costs already soaring beyond the average Black family’s ability to pay – or the absence of health insurance altogether, the financial burden of obesity to the individual and society as a whole is untenable.

Consider that approximately 36% of African-American high school girls, and 36% of black males of the same age are overweight or obese.1 Our children - our future adults - are poised for lifetimes unnecessarily marked by obesity-related health problems—some of which can already be seen in the alarming rates of Type 2 diabetes among Black youth. Something must be done!

Research into the problem of excess weight among African-Americans suggests that many Blacks accept larger body sizes, feel less guilt about over-eating, and are less likely to practice unhealthy dieting behaviors such as purging. But let’s be clear, regardless of our cultural perceptions of body size and food, a healthy body weight is not a matter of vanity, it’s a matter of economics, survival, and the future of our community.

If ever there was a time for us to “get busy”— it’s now. A healthy body need not be rail-thin to be attractive, but a massive body struggling under extra pounds fat that clogs arteries, strains joints and burdens every major organ, is deadly.  Consistent, regular, vigorous exercise and a sensible diet are the solution.

Let’s stop digging our graves with our knives and forks and live healthier, longer lives with fewer pounds and a lot more common sense.

With you on your Journey to Wellness,
Dr. Mary S. Harris

References
1. http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=6456

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