Health-related goals are indeed popular New Year’s resolutions. Most of us make a resolution to lose weight and exercise more. However, for many of us, the path to good health is not an easy. Procrastination, family obligations, work demands, or a lack of time can hinder the most well-intended resolution.
America is getting heavier.
Despite public awareness campaigns and other efforts to get people to watch their weight, obesity has taken a significant toll on communities of color and low-income families. When it comes to African American obesity rates, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health report African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.
In 2015, African Americans were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as non- Hispanic whites. Furthermore, in 2015, African American women were 60 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white women. Likewise, in 2011-2014, African American girls were 50% more likely to be overweight than non-Hispanic white girls. Data from WebMD report a greater urgency for African Americans to modify their lifestyles to participate in regular exercise and to practice healthy eating habits because obesity in the African American community has been directly linked to death, chronic disease, and rising healthcare costs.
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and advocate for preventive lifestyle measures to treat obesity, “most common chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and heart disease harken back to the lifestyle choices we make every day. Most doctors prescribe a lifetime of medications to treat chronic conditions, but comprehensive lifestyle changes can prevent and even reverse them.” While there is no single or simple solution to combat the obesity epidemic among African American women, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or gender, everyone should participate in regular exercise and practice healthy eating habits.
Obesity is a complex problem that requires interventions across various entities including national and local policy makers, private and public sector business, academia, healthcare professionals, and community to create and encourage healthy behaviors including eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking less sugar-sweetened beverages, increased physical activity, quality sleep and sleep duration, and decreased screen time.
Taking a proactive stance toward achieving a healthier lifestyle to avoid the consequences of obesity can be a long and arduous journey, but it can be done with small steps each day especially if you set a goal, make time, be determined, and decide to change your life for good. A healthy lifestyle is a valuable resource for reducing the incidence and impact of health problems, for recovery, for coping with life stressors, and for improving the quality of your life. Remember: before you begin an exercise program or make radical changes to your diet, check with your doctor to determine the best exercises and healthy food options for you.
For more information, contact Angie Boddie at the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, Inc. at 202-637-8400 or visit www.ncba-aging.org.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.