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America Health Watch
by: Daryl Dudley
America loves fast food. Last year, consumers spent billions of dollars on the hamburger industry alone. Corporate giants such as McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King all boast of multi-million dollar incomes each year.
Because their foods are delicious! Americans everywhere love the rich flavors of gigantic Big Macs and king-sized Whoppers. Our mouths water and noses flare at the enticing smell of a Bacon Double Burger Classic- a popular burger layered with melted cheese and tender bacon strips. Add a large batch of hot, sizzling French fries, and you have a combo meal worth billions of dollars to the American public. Indeed many of us love fast food!
But what has our country gained from its huge appetite for greasy foods? I can think of three problems-three problems that have stood coldly on America's doorstep. These problems have destroyed the lives of millions of Americans over the past decade. They are: 1) Obesity 2) High Blood Pressure and 3) Heart Disease. Strangely enough, American consumers will continue to satisfy their appetites for greasy chicken dinners, colossal burgers, salty French fries, and dozens of other fast foods. But the biggest threat is that these three health problems, if left unchecked, will bring more pain, more suffering, and higher death rates to the American population.
Obesity: Numerous studies have pointed to what causes obesity (condition of being overweight). Two major causes are: 1) over eating of high-fat foods, and 2) lack of exercise. With our country's yearly spending on fast food, it is no surprise that more than 60% of Americans aged 20 years and older are overweight. Obesity has also been found to cause diabetes. Though the condition has been proven a hereditary disease, physicians agree that diabetes is often triggered by the patient's choice of foods. In 2002, treatment of diabetes totaled 23.2 billion U.S. dollars. But being overweight can cause more health problems than just diabetes. Obesity is also a leading cause of high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure (HBP): Over the years, tests have shown that most diets high in salt lead to cases of high blood pressure. At the turn of this century,this condition was listed as the main cause of death in 227,000 cases. Extra salt on our fries may seem tempting. But a less tempting thought is that high blood pressure contributes to 75% of all strokes and heart attacks. The danger with this condition is that many Americans are unaware that they have high blood pressure. Still, HBP is lethally harmful to anyone who has it. If left untreated, the condition may lead to heart disease.
Heart Disease: This disease is currently the single leading cause of death in America. Years of study have shown obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels as causes of heart disease. Freshly fried chicken, large hamburger meals, hot bags of salted fries-all of these menu items pull at the wallets and purses of American consumers. But what does it cost to satisfy our appetites again and again? In 2001 heart disease was responsible for over half a million deaths in the U.S. It accounted for over 17.6 billion U.S. dollars-in medical treatment- in 2002.
Is the cost really worth it?
As a nation, we are just now beginning to realize the long term effects of an unbalanced diet. This is, however, a good step towards improving America's overall health condition. We can not afford to lose millions of lives from diseases that can be controlled, or even avoided.
There are many alternatives to eating fast food. For example, delicious fruits such as apples, oranges, pears, grapes, and grapefruits, are all low in cholesterol and high in nutritional value. They also help the body fight cancer. Meats such as grilled shrimp, baked chicken, and broiled fish are low in cholesterol but high in proteins and other useful nutrients for the body. Finally, garden peas, collard greens, lima beans, and baked potatoes, are all excellent substitutes for a greasy bag of salted fries. You can find additional information on foods and food servings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The information can be found at your local library, bookstores, online, and a variety of other sources.
Indeed America has many opportunities to grow as a healthy nation. It is time to address the health problems that lie at our country's doorstep. It is our time-America's time to eat smart.
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