African Americans and the Obesity Epidemic

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African Americans and the Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is simply defined as “weight that is higher than what is considered a healthy weight for a given height” (CDC). In order to calculate whether or not an individual is obese, doctors use what is called the “Body Mass Index,” or BMI, which is essentially a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI positively correlates with high body fatness. If an individual’s BMI is 18.5 to <25, it is consider normal. 25 to <30 is considered overweight and it is only when an individual’s BMI becomes higher than 30 that they are considered clinically obese.

In today’s society, it is constantly becoming easier and easier for people to access the things they want, with food being one of the easiest. With quick and easy fast-food options such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, and In-n-Out among others virtually everywhere you go, combined with the general need for individuals to get more daily exercise, it is difficult to say that America is not suffering from an obesity epidemic. Narrowing this down, the most impacted group is without a doubt the African American population. In recent studies conducted, African Americans were shown to be 1.5 times as likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. For African American women, the numbers become even more staggering. African American women were twice as likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, an impressive four our of five African American women were shown to be overweight or obese.

So what impact on health does all this have? In the United States, more than 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Furthermore, individuals who are overweight are MUCH more likely to suffer from diseases such as high blood pressure, high body fat levels, and high LDL cholesterol all of which already plague the African American community tremendously. While one could say that exercise would cure all of this, studies have shown that African Americans were 80% less likely to engage in physical activity than non-Hispanic whites. Thus, it was concluded that death rates from heart disease and stroke were higher for African Americans as compared to whites. These numbers are more than likely to have originated from a lack of resources which allows for African Americans to change their lifestyle and shows how empowerment and acquisition of both knowledge and resources in the African American community is ultimately needed.

I leave readers with this:

“We must not constantly talk about tackling obesity and warning people about the negative consequences of obesity. Instead we must be positive – positive about the fun and benefits to be had from healthy living, trying to get rid of people’s excuses for being obese by tackling the issue in a positive way.” – Andrew Lansley

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