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Good News, Bad News About Americans' Health

< Jun. 20, 2012 > -- Fewer Americans are smoking, but plenty are still overweight or obese, according to the latest survey on the nation's health.

Photo of two people riding bikes

The CDC this week released early results from its 2011 National Health Interview Survey. The findings showed positive and negative trends: More people are exercising and fewer are smoking. But more Americans are obese and have type 2 diabetes.

Pascal James Imperato, M.D., at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, says he's pleased by the healthier lifestyle choices that emerged from the survey.

"Aerobic exercising has been widely embraced by many younger people, which is an excellent development, as it addresses not only the health needs to be active, build muscle tone and bone density, and promote cardiac fitness, but also the prevention of overweight and obesity," he says.

And, he says, the decline in smoking rates among adults is the result of a combination of extensive public health education efforts, a decline in social acceptance of smoking, restrictions on where people can smoke, and the increased costs of smoking.

Progress to be made

But clearly more work lies ahead. The number of Americans who say they are obese rose from 19.4 percent in 1997 to 28.7 in 2011. And one in 10 U.S. adults ages 45 to 54 has diabetes - that jumps to one in five in those 65 and older.

"These are the worst of times when it comes to obesity and diabetes, both of which are at high levels and still rising," says David Katz, M.D., at Yale University School of Medicine.

Survey details

Among other highlights from the survey:

  • The percentage of adults who drink five or more alcoholic drinks a day has dropped, after increasing between 2004 and 2010, to about 22 percent in 2011.

  • Among black children under 15 years of age, 16.6 percent have asthma; that figure is 10 percent for Hispanic children and 7.5 percent for white kids.

  • Fifty percent of adults ages 25 to 44 say they have been tested for HIV.

  • More adults (3.4 percent) had serious psychological distress during 2011 than in 1999 (2.4 percent).

  • In 2011, almost 67 percent of people ages 65 and older had received a vaccine against pneumonia, a significant increase from 43 percent in 1997.

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Helpful Hints for a Healthy Weight

Use the following tips to help you shed unwanted pounds:

  • Prepare a healthy shopping list before you go to the supermarket, and stick to the list.

  • Confine your meals to the dining room or kitchen table.

  • Freeze leftovers immediately so you can't raid the refrigerator later.

  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is packed with calories, but no nutrients. Also, it increases appetite and weakens your willpower to avoid the wrong food choices.

  • Eat more slowly. Rushing through meals doesn't give your brain adequate time to register and signal you when you're full.

  • When dining out, request sauces and low-calorie dressings be served on the side so you can use as much or as little as you want.

  • Don't eat while watching TV. Watching the tube instead of your plate can lull you into overeating; so will the food and snack commercials.

  • Stick to your own plate. Nibbling off someone else's dish may seem harmless but the calories add up.

  • Choose healthy items if you eat fast food. To do so, avoid fried foods and "super-sized" portions.

  • Don't go food shopping on an empty stomach. Eat a little something first or you'll be tempted to buy more than you should.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - National Health Interview Survey

CDC - Overweight and Obesity

CDC - Physical Activity