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Keeping Healthy

By Col. Ender S. Ozgul 2nd Medical Group commander

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Obesity in America is an epidemic. We all should be concerned that the obesity rates have increased for the last three decades in every state. Only this year have the rates leveled off, however, they still remain very high, putting Americans at risk for a range of health problems and adding a major burden to healthcare costs. According to the Robert Wood Foundation, 13 states have adult obesity rates topping 30 percent, 41 states have rates above 25 percent, and every state is above 20 percent.

Barksdale now has the distinction of being located in the state with the highest rate of obesity at 34.7 percent. Barksdale as an installation is not immune to the epidemic. For Barksdale, more than 15 percent of active duty personnel are obese according to the latest Aeromedical Services Information, Management Systems data.

Why does this matter? Those who are obese run a much greater risk of developing extensive medical complications such as arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory difficulties, such as sleep apnea. It is estimated that obese people spend 42percent more on healthcare costs than healthy-weight individuals.

As a person's BMI increases, so does the number of sick days utilized, and the healthcare costs associated with the individual. In 2009, it was estimated that for our Tricare prime population, costs attributed to obesity were approximately $1 billion dollars a year. However, of more concern for our nation, approximately 75 percent of 17 to 24 year-olds did not qualify for military service because of obesity.

Health care providers seek to reduce the number of people in these two categories - through education/lifestyle changes and medications. The DOD is improving nutrition standards across the military by updating menu standards at all base dining facilities and providing nutrition education and obesity counseling to all military. However, it does take a bit of personal responsibility. Here are some tips to aid in reducing the obesity epidemic.

Make the time for regular exercise. Military members have this covered with our fitness program; however, please remember to include your family members. It is often underestimated how it will make you feel more energetic and that it can provide a break from your daily activities, thereby reducing some stress.

Have healthy, appropriately portioned, regular meals. It is not always easy to do, but it is important for your long-term health. Coming from overseas, I had forgotten and was amazed at the food portion size provided by many restaurants. I strongly consider sharing a meal to help reduce the portion size. Additionally, as a family, engage in healthier food choices; it's particularly important for your children when lifelong eating habits can be formed. Realize that supplements, as advertised, are not always the answer.

Watch Less TV; data has shown that nearly 30 percent of people who watch more than four hours of TV a day have a Body Mass Index that is in the obese range. Spend the time at the Fitness Center burning calories.

Get enough rest and sleep. Tiredness and exhaustion often add to stress, which can influence eating behaviors.

Capitalize on Health and Wellness Center services; prevention is the goal.