Most of us could stand to take a cold, hard look at the foods we consume and the sedentary lifestyles we lead. Approximately 50% of American adults are dieting at any given moment, but how many of us could say that we’re really getting the nutrients and physical activity our bodies need? Statistically, the likelihood is pretty low. The truth is that only one-third of American adults get their recommended amount of exercise each week, and the CDC says that more than 70% of U.S. adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese. It’s really taking a toll on our health, especially in Alabama. And while more residents than ever have signed up for health insurance this year, rising costs may make it even harder to get necessary services and treatments that could allow for a better quality of life.
The United States has the highest rates of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, of any country. In fact, 87% of older Americans have at least one of these chronic diseases, while 68% have two or more. In Alabama, the problem is clear: the state has the second-highest percentage of adults with Type 2 diabetes in the nation, as well as the highest percentage of adults with high cholesterol. WalletHub recently ranked Alabama in seventh place on its list of 2017’s “Fattest Cities” as a result.
In many parts of the state, fast food is plentiful and convenient, while health stores are scarce. Alabama has also seen a decrease in farming during recent years, which not only makes local produce harder to come by but also had an impact on people who would have otherwise spend their days working hard in the fields.
Of course, given the American South’s love of fat-laden food traditions, the results aren’t exactly surprising to many experts. But they should be of huge concern to everyone. It’s becoming more common to see children develop chronic diseases due to obesity, poor eating habits, and lack of physical activity. And while a study conducted by the British Medical Association found that coronary heart disease risk can be reduced by 50% when people cycle 20 miles per week, a recent report released by the Physical Activity Council states that nearly 81.5 million Americans ages six and above were completely inactive in 2016.
Unfortunately, we pay a huge price when we choose to sit on the couch instead of working up a sweat. Not only are we more likely to be overweight or obese and develop chronic health conditions, but we could even be sealing our own fates in the process. Obesity has been linked to cancer, as half of all new cancer diagnoses are related to obesity. At a time when the healthcare debate is taking over the news, it’s important for Americans to protect themselves through prevention.
It’s not just an aesthetic or health issue, either. Being overweight will cost you, literally. The American weight loss industry keeps growing along with our waistlines. This year alone, U.S. residents are expected to spend $68 billion on diet programs, and the nation spends nearly $200 billion in yearly obesity-related healthcare costs.
When it comes to healthcare, though, it looks like Americans — and the people of Alabama, in particular — are starting to pay attention. More people have signed up for health insurance coverage at HealthCare.gov this year than ever before in past, with nearly 3.6 million Americans using the platform. In Alabama alone, more than 73,000 residents have signed up, which represents a 15% increase compared to the same time a year ago.
Lori Lodes, co-founder of Get America Covered, said in a statement: “Such a strong start to open enrollment shows just how much people want health insurance and that they’re finding coverage they can afford when they visit HealthCare.gov.”
However, many people are still struggling to afford coverage. Although the Affordable Care Act reduced the American uninsured population by 41%, insurance company rate hikes have made it so that people who aren’t eligible for income-based tax credits have to make tough decisions about their coverage. A lot of families can’t afford to spend close to $2,000 each month for insurance, so they may be forced to go without and take their chances. It’s an extremely risky move that could result in financial devastation if a medical emergency occurs. And considering how vulnerable Alabama residents are, given the state of their health as outlined in the WalletHub list, such a maneuver could be a huge gamble.
Still, many families have very few options. Although the ACA was a huge improvement for countless Americans, it shows that the U.S. healthcare system has a long way to go — as do American health habits.