The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. National Academy of Sciences (2013)
What is going on?
During the 20th century the USA became the dominant economic power in the world and along with it came a lifestyle focused on efficiency and convenience. Here are a few examples.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for long periods of time contributes to health concerns like obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Here is the ringer! Even if you exercise 30 minutes per day, the inactivity during the other 23.5 hours per day can have consequences. Our bodies were not designed for long periods of inactivity.
How much sitting is too much? A large scale Australian study says if you sit more than 4 hours per day you are putting yourself at risk.
Lack of Exercise
74% of Americans do not get the recommend amount of physical activity.
The good news is that just making the shift from being sedentary to becoming somewhat active will prolong life and reduced disease risk.
In 2001, ABC aired a special on women and stress in working women. Stress hormones reached the levels of soldiers in combat as they struggled to do their jobs and raise their children. Of course, it is not just women. Our 24/7 always on world impacts virtually everyone.
Adults get a 50% boost in longevity if they have a solid social network. Social interactions may be more important to health than exercise and weigh control.
Yet, with our hectic lifestyle our social relationships have been suffering. In spite of online social networks, the typical number of close relationships has declined over the past decades.
One promising initiative is the Transition Town Movement intended to help people feel more connected and involved with their community.
Processed foods are a convenience and suit a busy lifestyle. They are also typically loaded with unhealthy ingredients like sugar, salt, cornstarch, preservatives and flavor enhancers. Moreover, they are readily available and relatively inexpensive.
On the positive side, there has been a dramatic upswing in the number of farmers markets but people need to make the trade-off from convenience to a healthier choice that takes more effort.
The Center for Disease Control recently reported that food portion sizes are up to 4 times as big as 1950. In the 50’s the average hamburger was 3.9 ounces – it is now 12 ounces. An order of French fries went from 2.4 ounces to almost 7 ounces.
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