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December 10, 2008


So how is Minnesota doing?

According to the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, many Minnesota adults are overweight or obese, have developed health problems and chronic diseases and continue to not
practice healthy behaviors:
- 51 percent do not achieve weekly recommended physical activity recommendations
- 81 percent consume fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- 1 in 4 are obese and 1 in 3 are overweight
- 33 percent have high cholesterol
- 22 percent have high blood pressure
- 6 percent have diabetes and 26 percent have prediabetes

The prevalence of risk behaviors among youth in Minnesota is setting up the next generation of adults for earlier onset and more widespread chronic disease. According to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey:
- 67 percent of 12th grade girls report not participating in moderate physical activity five or more days per week
- 34 percent of 12th grade boys and 48 percent of 12th grade girls report not participating in vigorous physical activity at least three day per week
- 49 percent of 12th grade boys and 37 percent of 12th grade girls report watching six hours or more of television or videos per week
- 32 percent of 12th grade boys report playing computer or video games for six hours or more per week
- Fewer than 20 percent of elementary, middle and high school students surveyed report eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
- 47 percent of 12th grade girls and 65 percent of 12th grade boys report drinking at least one soda a day

But Minnesota has a plan- this year the Minnesota Department of Health released an Obesity Action Plan. It can be found at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/hpcd/chp/obesity/pdf/obesityplanfinal.pdf

December 8, 2008

Young Doctors Exercise Less Than They Should


In comparison to the national average, young doctors get much less exercise, and this level of exercise is below recommended levels, according to a study released on December 2, 2008 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine

To assess exercise habits in doctors, the researchers surveyed junior doctors working at two hospitals in Southern England, one of which had an on-site gym. Of the the 61 total surveyed, half were women, and the average age was 27. In the group, there were equal numbers of medical and surgical specialists. The survey asked about the subjects' physical exercise habits before and after graduating and lifestyle factors, such as smoking or drinking, which were likely to affect general health.

In most categories, the doctors outperformed the national public. On average, the doctors weighted and smoked less than national average estimates. Only 7% drank more than the recommended number of units of alcohol. However, only 21% achieved recommended exercise levels, far below the national average of 44%. Additionally, examining the doctors performing too little exercise, most worked at the hospital with a gymnasium -- but one third of the doctors working there said they were unaware of its existence.

In the 35 doctors who used a gym, on-site or elsewhere, only three exercised according to the guidelines. The doctors' previous habits may be have been different, because as medical students, 64% fulfilled the guidelines. When asked why they did not meet the guidelines, the most common response was lack of time, with 58% of the total. However, 29% said they were not motivated or too tired. When asked what might increase their exercise participation, many of the subjects suggested promotion programs at work, or the availability of exercise classes or sports teams.

I think this is incredibly interesting- Doctors who are to be promoting health to their patients are not getting enough exercise themselves. This sort of research underscores the importance of health promotion program even to those whose job it is to promote health. Often times these people are so busy to think of their own health. However, I think it would be difficult to listen to a doctor or health professional who was healthy him or herself. Therefore, health promotions should target health professionals as well. This is not a usual intervention population, but apparently there is a need.

Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/131682.php

December 5, 2008

A simple scale

New research from the University of Minnesota looked at whether a scale can be a helpful tool in the fight against obesity.

The study found that teens who weighed themselves at least once a week tended to be less heavy and eat a better diet than teens who did not weigh themselves. Many experts feel that self-monitoring such as weighing onesself can help keep everyone honest - kids and adults alike - when it comes to better weight control.

Teenagers struggling with a few extra pounds might get assistance from a simple bathroom scale. According to new research from the University of Minnesota, adolescents who weighed themselves at least once a week had better weight control and healthier habits than those who didn't use the scale as often

Doctors studied 130 teenagers who were moderately overweight and found that those who regularly used a scale weighed an average of 7 pounds less and were less likely to eat junk food or meals with saturated fats. Self-weighers also exercised more and were nearly 5 times as likely to follow a structured diet. Experts say the scale provides valuable feedback to teens, allowing them to make changes in their eating behavior before their clothes get too tight. Past studies have also shown that frequent weighing helps dieters keep the pounds off over the long-term. But some nutrition experts caution parents against making their kids "slaves to the scale" -- weekly or twice weekly weighing provides useful feedback, but more than that could create an unhealthy obsession.

I think there has been some controvery about whether weighing oneself on a regular basis can be harmful too. At what point is a person becoming obsessed with a number on a scale. I think that is a common behavior among people with eating disorders. I think we need to be careful not to help one disease at the cost of introducing another disorder.

There is a news video on this research that can be found at http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S673916.shtml?cat=10360

December 4, 2008

How Astronauts Stay Fit

Picture of Shuttle Endeavour delivering the advanced Resistive Exercise Device to the international space station.

A CNN article looked at how astronauts stay fit in space and on earth. Research shows that floating around in zero-G can have some serious consequences for the human body, including the weakening of bones. In fact, studies have shown that space travelers can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each month on average, according to NASA.

One way that astronauts have been fighting bone loss is through strength training. And they're getting some help with a new machine delivered this week by the shuttle Endeavour, which docked with the international space station on Sunday.

The advanced Resistive Exercise Device, aRED for short, functions like a weight machine in a gym on Earth, except it has no conventional weights. Instead, it has vacuum cylinders -- canisters with air that have had a vacuum applied -- that provide concentric workloads up to 600 pounds, NASA says.

The device works somewhat like a bicycle pump, only in reverse, said Mark Guilliams, a NASA trainer. For example, if you are squatting, the vacuum gets pulled out as you stand up, and when you squat back down, the vacuum pulls the bar back to the normal position.

The international space station also is equipped with a treadmill and a bicycle, Guilliams said.

So what's the difference between exercising on Earth and working out on the international space station?

"When you run outside on Earth, you've got 195 pounds smacking against the pavement every time you take a step," said Anderson, who weighs 195 pounds on Earth. "In zero gravity, you're trying to use bungees to hold you down."

The treadmill has clip harnesses to hold an astronaut down, such that the fewer clips used, the more force acts around the legs, making running more difficult, he said.

Both before and after space travel, astronauts go through the same kinds of exercises familiar to athletes and others who exercise on Earth, Guilliams said -- aerobic activity such as running, and weight training. Astronauts training for a flight have scheduled exercise time two or three times a week for two hours each session, but in unscheduled time, they'll go for a run, he said.

For Clay Anderson, a NASA Astronaut who played football in college and has been athletic for much of his life, space travel was "physically easy." Space walks did get fatiguing because they required him to use his forearms, hands and upper body, which don't get much exercise on Earth.

"On Earth, you tend to use your big muscle group, and in space you tend to use your smaller muscle group, especially on a space walk when you use your forearms and your hands almost exclusively," he said.

Currently, an ongoing study is measuring how much astronauts who stay on board the international space station eat and exercise, Anderson said. The experiment will determine what kinds of dietary supplements astronauts should take in addition to the food they eat, and also the appropriate level and type of exercise they should get, he said.

"I think they're making some good strides in figuring out how to keep people healthy on a six- to nine-month trip to Mars," he said

I think is great research - we don't always see tools for such small groups of people. Astronauts, may represent a small population, but reaching even those that may not even be on our planet - is extremely important in the combat towards obesity. It goes to show that small minor details can make a big difference.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/11/18/exercise.in.space/index.html

December 2, 2008

Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity

The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity
Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as "overweight" and "obesity,"* the risks for the following conditions also increases:

Coronary heart disease
Type 2 diabetes
Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
Liver and Gallbladder disease
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)
*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/effects/index.htm

Overweight and Obesity-Related Health Problems in Adults
Heart Disease
This condition occurs when a fatty material called plaque (plak) builds up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to your heart). Plaque narrows the coronary arteries, which reduces blood flow to your heart. Your chances for having heart disease and a heart attack get higher as your body mass index (BMI) increases. Obesity also can lead to congestive heart failure, a serious condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
This condition occurs when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries is too high. Your chances for having high blood pressure are greater if you’re overweight or obese.

Being overweight or obese can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries that form a blood clot. If the clot is close to your brain, it can block the flow of blood and oxygen and cause a stroke. The risk of having a stroke rises as BMI increases.

Type 2 Diabetes
This is a disease in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. Normally, the body makes insulin to move the blood sugar into cells where it’s used. In type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t respond enough to the insulin that’s made. Diabetes is a leading cause of early death, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Abnormal Blood Fats
If you’re overweight or obese, you have a greater chance of having abnormal levels of blood fats. These include high amounts of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (a fat-like substance often called “bad? cholesterol), and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (often called “good? cholesterol). Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk for heart disease.

Metabolic Syndrome
This is the name for a group of risk factors linked to overweight and obesity that raise your chance for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke. A person can develop any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. Metabolic syndrome occurs when a person has at least three of these heart disease risk factors:

A large waistline. This is also called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.? Having extra fat in the waist area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than having extra fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
Abnormal blood fat levels, including high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol.
Higher than normal blood pressure.
Higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels.
Being overweight or obese raises the risk for colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers.

This is a common joint problem of the knees, hips, and lower back. It occurs when the tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints, causing pain.

Sleep Apnea
This condition causes a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. A person with sleep apnea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can make the breathing airway smaller so that it’s hard to breathe.

Reproductive Problems
Obesity can cause menstrual irregularity and infertility in women.

These are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. They’re mostly made of cholesterol and can cause abdominal or back pain. People who are overweight or obese have a greater chance of having gallstones. Also, being overweight may result in an enlarged gallbladder that may not work properly.

December 1, 2008

Obesity and Economics


An article the economic crisis of obesity came out today in the state of Delaware. The article discusses the obesity epidemic in light of society today. Here are a few exercepts from the article:

Today, an average family spends 40 percent of its food budget on meals purchased outside the home. Fast food makes up a large portion of that percentage because of the convenient allure of the drive through and the high number of fast food restaurants.

While nominal food prices dropped 38 percent between 1978 and 2005, the most dramatic drop was in soft drinks, sweets and fatty snacks, he said.

While the sticker price of fatty food may be lower than healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables, there are more costs to consider than dollars and cents, Carter said. Milk costs more than soda, but milk is also more valuable for the body than soda, so it is impossible to compare healthy and unhealthy foods based only on price, she said.

Nationally, a 2008 Conference Board report found that obesity is associated with a 36 percent increase in spending on healthcare services, more than smoking or problem drinking, and that obesity costs the private sector a super-sized $45 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity.

In another report that examined national numbers from multiple organizations, overweight and obesity costs were estimated to cost the U.S a whopping $117 billion (Direct cost, $61 billion. Indirect cost, $56 billion). The study estimated that the direct costs of physical inactivity alone were more than $24 billion.

Source: http://www.communitypub.com/business/x1751723902/The-economics-of-obesity-tipping-the-scales-toward-a-health-crisis