Spotlight on Health: Obesity
February 27, 2020
It is no secret that obesity is an epidemic in America. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 40 percent of American adults were obese for the years 2015-2016. For youth, it was 18.5 percent for the same time frame.
For African Americans age 35 and older, the CDC says 43 percent struggle with obesity, compared to 32 percent of whites. People who are obese are at increased risk for other dangerous health conditions including diabetes, gallbladder disease, and breathing problems. In addition, carrying extra weight around puts strain on bones and joints, leading to increased risk for developing osteoarthritis.
Dr. Latisha Malcom is a physician with Western Wayne Family Health Centers (WWFHC), which provides accessible and affordable health care to the community at its locations in Inkster, Lincoln Park, Taylor, and Dearborn. Malcom says obesity often begins with unhealthy habits which are passed from parent to child, such as being inactive, relying on fast food or carryout, and not cooking at home. "It's a big problem but I think it starts with us modeling the right things to do, the right things to eat...and actually sitting down and cooking a meal."
Environment can be a factor in obesity rates as well. Malcom says not every neighborhood has a park or recreation center nearby for adults and children to be active. If crime or loose-running dogs are an issue in a neighborhood, people are less likely to get outdoors to walk, jog or play.
"Kids are more sedentary now because they have more devices," Malcom says. Indeed, technology has made is easy for anyone to stay parked on the sofa all day, playing video games or streaming movies.
An obese child is highly likely to grow into an obese adult. The stigma of obesity, especially in childhood, can lead to low self-esteem and depression.
More importantly, Malcom says obesity has been linked to cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), and diabetes. "Obesity is right at the center of it all, so if we can figure that part of the equation out at an early age, then we can help prevent many of the diseases we face," says Malcom. "As many as 75 percent of African Americans, by the age of 55 will have developed hypertension."
The good news is that obesity can be reversed but it's not always easy. Malcom says being active is very important. She suggests 150 minutes of activity each week. "That would be 30 minutes five times a week doing any type of cardiovascular exercise; it can be walking, something as simple as walking at your grocery store," she says.. Don't let the word cardiovascular throw you; it merely means exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you breathing harder.
Eating right has to be part of the plan too. Malcom says to be aware of what you're putting in your grocery cart when shopping and choose more fresh fruits and vegetables, and fewer frozen items and processed food in boxes and cans. If it's difficult to get to the grocery store on a regular basis, try growing some fresh vegetables during the summer months either in a garden or flower pots on your porch. Tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, and radishes all grow well in large patio pots just outside your back door.
At WWFHC, there are cooking and nutrition classes to help anyone learn how to shop and cook for better health. "We're trying to offer more and more of those kind of resources at our clinics where people can easily get to," says Lisa Rutledge, Special Projects Manager at WWFHC. Going on now at the center's Inkster location is a free six-week series on cooking and fitness. To find out more on this program, contact Kelly Citron at 313-254-2663.
Coming to WWFHC this spring are Cooking Matters, classes presented in cooperation with community partners. Classes will be held in Garden City at the Maplewood Community Center and at WWFHC-Taylor location, and will focus on healthy food preparation, shopping on a budget, shopping tips, and recipes. For more information, contact Jacquelynne Powell at 313-494-4739. To find out more on Cooking Matters classes coming to Garden City, call 734-793-1857. More about WWFHC can be found at their website at http://www.wwfhc.org or at the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/westernwaynefamilyhealthcenters/