Tag Archives: World Health Organization

The (Very Large) Elephant in the Room

I mentioned in my first post on the topic of health that ideally, instead of measuring world health by rates of infant mortality, this would eventually decline so much that we could switch to a metric based on a country’s physical fitness, a function linked more to prosperity. Well, with infant mortality rates dropping, I seem to have gotten my wish, a lot sooner than I thought, but maybe not in the best way. (Always, always, be careful what you wish for!)

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released, for the first time, global figures for all 194 member countries of the UN on the percentage of men and women with high blood pressure, and with raised blood sugar levels, a symptom of diabetes. What the figures clearly showed is the spread of chronic diseases such as heart disease from developed nations to poorer regions, as lifestyles and diets change. Even if you are aware of the problem in the U.S. (Amazingly, a lot of people are not — read this if you are not convinced!) you will probably be a bit shocked at the speed at which obesity and all its related diseases (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc…) is literally spreading across the globe.

Some highlights from this article from Reuters:

  • One in three adults worldwide has raised blood pressure and the condition affects almost half the adult population in some countries in Africa;
  • One in 10 adults worldwide has diabetes, an illness that costs billions of dollars to treat and puts sufferers at risk of heart disease, kidney failure and blindness; up to a third of the population in some Pacific Island countries have the condition;
  • Rates of obesity have doubled in every region of the world between 1980 and 2008; and half a billion people – or 12 percent of the world’s population – are considered obese.

The medical community is working hard to address this epidemic. (Yes, it’s an epidemic. Ironically, people worry far more about the next super-virus or terrorist attack than the thing that is killing more of us than ever before and is right in front of our faces, stacked high on a plate.) However, although the idea of a “magic pill” is appealing, what the doctors are actually saying, screaming, yelling as loud as they can, is that there’s really only one way out: better diet and exercise.

The obesity/diabetes/heart disease epidemic is actually a challenge to our essential human nature: eat as much as you can and everything will be okay. We need to overcome that and it’s not easy.

But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Actually, there’s one really easy thing you can do today, right now: just walk! Just take a few extra steps. That’s all. If lots of people took those few extra steps, added up, we might have a shot at beating this. Let’s give ourselves that chance!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. There are about a zillion ways to make exercising more fun — even more so with the advent of smart phone apps — so I won’t go into all of them here except to say that if I started with Fitocracy a few months ago and, though I’m just a newbie, I am finding that getting “awards” and “medals” for my slowly increasing fitness achievements, puts a smile on my face every day and makes it a little more fun! There are also a lot of very knowledgeable people on the forum for all sorts of questions and support.

PPS. I should also note that I work with Diabetes In Control, an online medical newsletter and website geared towards clinicians with the goal of keeping them current on the latest medical news related to diabetes.