A few days ago, Project For Public Spaces tweeted an article from the Atlantic Cities Place Matters newsline. This article speaks to the obesity epidemic and it’s link to our built environment. Primarily, how a poorly designed infrastructure inhibits us getting from point A to point B on foot or by bicycle. The author’s conclusion is, if you build it, they will come. Followed by, if we build it, people will use it and healthier and more fit. While I can agree with the author that most American cities and suburbs are car-centric, and the designs at times are hostile to walkers and bikers. I take issue with their premise that a change in design could really motivated people to get out of the cars and hit the streets for a healthier tomorrow.
Illustrated in the map is the rise in obesity in the 14 years between 1994 and 2008. You don’t have to look too hard to notice, as a nation we are heading down a dangerous path. The Atlantic Cities article also included graphs that showed the increase in diabetes. I asked where is the graph for Metabolic Syndrome? A term coined in the 1950′s that included diabetes, heart disease and gout; in the 70′s obesity and aging was added to the definition. What is Metabolic Syndrome? It is a group of risk factors or abnormalities that put an individual at high risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes. Those risk factors include: elevated waist circumference: men greater than 40 inches/women greater than 35, triglycerides greater than 150 mg/dL, blood pressure equal to or over 130/85 mm, HDL lower than 40mg/dl or lower in men and 50mg/dl or lower in women, fasting blood glucose equal to or greater than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L). Have three or more of the risk factors and the diagnoses is metabolic syndrome.
While the term is not without controversy, some studies indicate over 25 percent of our population or 50-75 million people living in America have metabolic syndrome. Gain 5 or more pounds a year and you’ll raise your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by up to 45%. Today it impacts 22% of those who are overweight and 60% of those considered obese.
Is it the Standard American Diet (SAD) or equally as sad, the Standard American Lifestyle. A graph from the National Geographic puts the US dead last when in come to “living fit.” What’s your take on this?
What are your top ten reasons our country is in such a rapid decline?
Here are my top 12 and counting:
Processed foods ZERO
Nation of couch potatoes (lack of exercise)
Time management (big wasters) tv/computers/social network/gaming
Quick dinners and lunches out – lack of home cooked meals
Don’t know how to bridge the gap – “don’t tell me why, show me how!”
Over dependence on the auto
Hopelessness (goes with #6 bridge the gap)
Medical community (duck and cover)
Employers -share the burden
What can we do in our own homes, neighborhoods and cities to stop the tide, and reverse the trend?