Obesity and Health Concerns Grow

The American Medical Association's new Healthier Life Steps campaign intends to help people live a healthy lifestyle at little or no cost. AMA offers resources and tools on its Web site to help Americans reduce risky health behaviors and show them how to work with their doctors to meet health goals. "Eating healthy, exercising, and eliminating unhealthy behaviors like smoking and excessive or risky drinking can seem like daunting tasks if you try to tackle everything at once," said AMA President-Elect Dr. J. James Rohack. "Incorporating small changes into everyday life, like cutting 100 calories per day and getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise, can make the process of getting healthier more manageable."

The campaign, announced Monday, is among several new health developments focused largely on diets and obesity. Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, today published a study of dietary patterns in 52 countries that attributed about 30 percent of the heart attack risk worldwide to the Western diet that is marked by higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat. The researchers identified two other dietary patterns in the world, Oriental (higher intake of tofu, soy, and other sauces) and Prudent (higher intake of fruits and vegetables) and concluded the Prudent diet is associated with a lower heart attack risk than the Oriental.

And the October 2008 issue of the American Psychological Association's monthly magazine, Monitor on Psychology, examines psychologists' and other professionals' role in combating an obesity epidemic that is spreading across the globe. Jamie Chamberlin of the Monitor staff writes that Yale University's Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., gave a plenary talk at APA's annual convention that said psychologists and other researchers have focused too much on obesity treatment rather than prevention. They should step up research on food and addiction and on harmful marketing to give policymakers the science they need to curb the food industry's most dangerous practices: fatty foods and sugary, caffeine-laden beverages aggressively marketed, especially to children, Brownell said.

The AMA Healthier Life Steps program includes action plans and tip sheets on how to improve diet, increase physical activity, and eliminate unhealthy behaviors like risky drinking and smoking. A body mass index calculator and progress calendars are on the Web site and can help patients chart their progress and stay motivated.

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