Eye-Popping Statistics

I often talk to people interested in improving their health or losing weight via lifestyle modification, mostly changes in diet and exercise.  Many of them are motivated by health-related facts.  Here is a smattering of facts I compiled in 2008 (so some are outdated), starting out worrisome and ending hopeful: 

  • 65% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.  Half are overweight, half are obese. 

  • 12% of deaths in the U.S. are due to lack of regular physical activity – 250,000 deaths yearly.

  • 11% of U.S. adults have diabetes mellitus.

  • 24 million in the U.S. have diabetes.  Another 57 million have pre-diabetes, a condition that increases your risk for diabetes.

  • 23% of U.S. adults over 60 have diabetes. 

  • 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

  • 200,000 yearly deaths in the U.S. are due to obesity.

  • Excess body fat causes 14 to 20% of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S.

  • 550,000 people die yearly of cancer in the U.S. 

  • Obesity-related cancers in men: prostate and colorectal.  Obesity-related cancers in women: endometrial (uterine), cervix, ovary, breast.  Both sexes: kidney, esophageal adenocarcinoma.

  • 20% of us in the U.S. will die of cancer.

  • Lifetime risk of developing invasive cancer in the U.S. is four in 10 (a little higher in men, a little lower in women).

  • At least one-half of high blood pressure cases are caused by excess body fat.  Every 20 pounds of excess fat increases blood pressure by two to three points.

  • Peak aerobic power (a measure of physical fitness) decreases by 50% between age 20 and 65.

  • Middle-aged and older people through regular exercise can increase their aerobic power by 15 to 20%, equivalent to a 10 or 20-year reduction in biological age. 

  • Regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure by 8 to 11 points.  

  • Have you already had a heart attack?  If so, regular exercise reduces the odds of fatal recurrence by 25% and adds two to three years to life.

  • The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower incidence of cancer (colon, breast, prostate, uterus), cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart attacks), and dementia (both Alzheimers and vascular types). 

  • High fruit and vegetable consumption protects against cancer of the lung, stomach, colon, rectum, oral cavity, and esophagus.  The protective “dose” is five servings a day.

  • Coronary artery disease is the cause of heart attacks and many cases of sudden cardiac death.  Legume consumption lowers the risk of coronary artery disease.  The protective dose is four servings of legumes a week. 

  • Whole grain consumption is associated with reduced risk of coronary artery disease (e.g., heart attacks), lower risk of death, lower incidence of type 2 diabetes and several cancers.  The protective dose is three servings a day. 

The good news is that we can significantly reduce our risk of premature death and common illnesses such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and dementia.  How?  Weight management, diet modification, and physical activity.     

Steve Parker, M.D.

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