Health experts implore
Americans to get fit
By Kirk Noonan (5/9/04)
Annually the killer
takes 400,000 lives and costs more than $100 billion. Right
now, 64.5 percent of Americans are within the killer’s
grasp. The main weapons the killer depends on are poor choices,
too little time, junk food and a general lack of motivation
or willingness to fight back.
The killer is obesity.
Being overweight has reached epidemic proportions in the United
States and is quickly challenging smoking as America’s
No. 1 killer. Because obesity is so lethal yet not taken seriously
by a vast majority of Americans, health and medical leaders
are scrambling to reiterate that fat kills.
“To know that
poor eating habits and inactivity are on the verge of surpassing
tobacco use as the leading cause of preventable death in America
should motivate all Americans to take action to protect their
health,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G.
Thompson said when announcing a new national education campaign
in March. “We need to tackle America’s weight issues
as aggressively as we are addressing smoking and tobacco.”
Julie, 56, who attends
an Assemblies of God church in California, was embarrassed when
her doctor told her she was 25 pounds overweight. Tall and slender
for most of her life with what she calls a “fast metabolism,”
she never worried about her weight. But after turning 50, she
says, “the weight started sticking to me.”
She blames menopause,
her office job where she sat for several hours each day, taking
in too many calories and lack of exercise.
“I never thought
I had a weight problem,” says Julie, whose story is similar
to millions of Americans. “But when my doctor told me
I was overweight and had high cholesterol it scared me.”
Julie embraced healthy,
well-proportioned meals, joined a gym and began an exercise
regime. In two months she lost 17 pounds and lowered her cholesterol
by 50 points.
“Today I feel
healthy and have more energy,” she says, noting that she
wants to lose eight more pounds. “Losing the weight and
staying healthy is hard but it’s a lifelong deal.”
James W. Long Jr.
directs the Utah Artificial Heart Program in Salt Lake City
and leads a team that is developing a revolutionary artificial
heart pump. He says more people need to have a wake-up call
similar to Julie’s.
“Over the last
several decades, the problem of being overweight has worsened
by 20 to 25 percent,” says Long, a graduate of Evangel
University in Springfield, Mo. “Being overweight raises
the risk of developing heart disease by two- to fourfold.”
Obesity can lead
to high blood pressure, type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke,
respiratory problems, sleep disorders, gallbladder disease,
various cancers and even death. To help avoid such ailments
experts say people must eat wiser and exercise. In doing so,
some experts say, Christians also can share their faith.
is a serious problem, but it is easily prevented and corrected,”
says Barbara Schoonover, a registered nurse and diabetes clinician/educator
who attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo. “A
person can drastically improve his or her life by cutting back
on the amount of food he or she eats and exercising regularly
30 to 45 minutes a day.”
this to be true firsthand. Four years ago her brother died of
a heart attack related to his being severely overweight and
his diabetes (which runs in their family). Schoonover mourned
her brother’s death, but also let it inspire her to live
a healthier life and to keep teaching people to do the same.
After her brother’s death Schoonover lost 30 pounds by
practicing what she teaches.
energy and prevented the onset of diabetes,” she says
of her weight loss and newfound healthy lifestyle. “Plus,
living healthy is a wonderful testimony to what can be accomplished
with the Lord’s help.”
Each day Schoonover
walks several miles. When she walks she frequently visits with
other walkers and neighbors who inevitably ask how she lost
the weight. Such conversations, says Schoonover, always lead
to conversations about faith.
As an educator Schoonover
emphasizes walking as an excellent exercise and notes that the
risks of cardiac disease and other serious ailments are significantly
reduced when people make daily walks a part of their lifestyle.
to get healthier one small step at a time,” said Secretary
Thompson in his address. “Each small step does make a
difference, whether it’s taking the stairs instead of
an elevator or snacking on fruits and vegetables [instead of
junk food]. The more small steps we can take, the further down
the road we will be toward better health for ourselves and our