What’s on your Fourth of July menu?

Published 12:01 am Friday, July 3, 2015

According to the statistics for Mississippi, ailments such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis, some types of cancer and premature births are on the menu for the Fourth of July; that is if you plan to eat tons of ribs, chicken, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, baked beans and apple pie.

I am not saying you can’t enjoy your holiday with family customs and traditions or to rid your diet of these delicious delectable completely. I am saying to eat in moderation, and to select some new items on the menu.

Many individuals are unaware of the latest obesity statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014, 35.1 percent of adult Mississippians were obese, leading Mississippi to have the highest adult obesity rate in the nation.

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In 2014, 40 percent of Mississippi children were deemed overweight or obese, leading Mississippi to have the highest childhood obesity rate in the nation.

Obesity increases spending for health care consumers, insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid by billions. Obesity leads to increase physician office visits, lengthy hospital stays, medication expenses, travel expenses, and rehabilitation. A report compiled by the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy School revealed that Medicare and Medicaid spending would be 8.5 percent and 11.8 percent lower in the absence of obesity.

The report compiled by the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Healthy School also deemed 74 percent of American’s youth were found to be unfit and only 36 percent of Mississippi high school students met recommended levels of physical activity. This report also mentions approximately 12.1 percent of total food dollars are spent on fruits and vegetables by lower income families, and for those with income levels above $70,000 and above, this percentage is only 8.7 percent. Mississippi has the second lowest fruit and vegetable consumption in the nation.

These statistics are alarming for me. As a nurse educator and registered nurse born and raised in Mississippi, I believe I have an obligation to educate our community and increase awareness so we can begin making healthier choices. Without sufficient interventions, obese children will become obese adults. Without sufficient interventions, children will live shorter lifespans than his or her parents.

Mississippians can start defying the odds by practicing the development of healthy health habits. Habits are developed through repetition and reinforcement, until the practice becomes a plan of your daily life. Mississippians, there are many health habits that must be adopted to combat obesity such as: making healthy food choices, eating recommended portions, decrease dining out, decrease alcohol intake, and increase vitamins in the diet. We must also remember to increase physical activity and exercise, even if that means having to sacrifice 30 minutes to an hour of television or the latest technology each day.

Mississippians, I hope you get as alarmed as I did when I read these statistics. Take the healthy challenge. Be proactive and not reactive. Remember community, the decisions we make this Fourth of July can affect us for a lifetime.

Ira Scott-Sewell is a Natchez resident.