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FOR RELEASE: February 25, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Food and Fitness for a Healthy Life Help Reduce Health Problems

"Food & Fitness: Health for a Lifetime" is the theme for National Nutrition Month this March. Although eating healthy foods and exercising sound simple, they are "easier said than done." Both are major problems nationally and in Oklahoma. The combined effects of being overweight and lack of exercise put Oklahomans at risk for serious health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 1998 the Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) reported that 32.4 percent of Oklahomans were at risk for health problems related to being overweight. The CDC also notes that 84.3 percent of Oklahomans are at risk for health problems related to a lack of regular and sustained exercise.

In the recently released The State of the State's Health Year 2000 Report, the State Board of Health affirmed that Oklahomans are continuing to die at higher rates than the national average from diseases directly related to being overweight and due to a lack of exercise.

"National statistics show almost 80 percent of obese adults have diabetes, high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, gallbladder disease or osteoarthritis, and almost 40 percent have two or more of these conditions," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. "National Nutrition Month gives health care providers and nutritionists the perfect opportunity to promote eating healthy foods and physical activity as a way of life."

Key messages offered by nutritionists and health care providers about healthy lifestyles include the following:

  • Good nutrition and physical activity help ensure proper growth and development, work productivity and lower risk for some diseases.
  • Food and physical activity are personal choices and require a commitment to eating a variety of healthy foods for proper nourishment.
  • Staying fit means having a better chance for a higher quality of life through improved mood, reduced stress, and increased energy, reduced risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes; improved physical strength and endurance; and looking and feeling your best.
  • Patients who use tobacco products should quit.

The American Dietetic Association conducted a public opinion survey on trends in October 1999 and found that 40 percent of respondents said they knew they should eat a healthy diet, but for a variety of reasons, did not. Interestingly, 32 percent of those responding said that a healthy diet was not a concern to them.

"Clearly, we have a lot of work to do to educate the public about the importance of nutrition and physical activity. We can no longer afford to ignore obesity as a major medical problem," Nida said.


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