Cigarettes, those white cancer sticks have long been considered one of the public’s greatest enemies. Especially toxic to Americans, they have been outlawed in most public places in most states. They produce heart attacks, strokes, emphysema and a host of terrible cancers. No wonder, they are attacked by all and sundry.
All this might lead you to think that smoking is the most dangerous lifestyle choice you can make. (Well, heroin addiction is a lot worse actually, but it’s not a legal or sane ‘lifestyle choice’) The truth is that obesity is gaining ground on smoking as a public killer at an alarming rate, especially in the USA.
Let’s look at some of the figures which were recently published (Reuters online)
Deaths in USA due to obesity/inactivity in 2000 400 000 (16, 6% of all deaths)
Number of Americans overweight: 129.6 million (64% of the population)
Medical surveys like this take a long time to prepare: that is why we are only getting the figures from 2000 now. The alarming thing about these statistics is that they suggest that obesity may already be the biggest threat to health in the Western World or at least in America.
You don’t find many state leaders who smoke these days (well at least not in public) but plenty of them obviously buy their clothes from outsize shops! How do they get away with this? At least in the USA the president is in good shape and I don’t give any obese person the slightest chance of being elected. In Europe we still elect fat people to office. Perhaps political candidates should be forced to put their BMI (body mass index) on the ballot paper. After all, obesity is becoming public enemy number one. Politicians should decide whether they are part of the problem or part of the solution.
Practitioners of T’ai Chi and yoga have long claimed superb health benefits for these activities. Claims are one thing but proof is another. Proper scientific proof has been lacking, until now that is. The men in white coats at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston (publishing in the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine) have proved that t’ai chi, practised long-term is beneficial to ‘balance control, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and reduces the risks of falling in the elderly’. These conclusions come out of a meta-analysis conducted by these researchers. A meta-analysis is reliable because it is a synthesis of the findings of several other studies. In this meta-analysis 47 studies of the health benefits of t’ai chi were reviewed. This is excellent news for this increasingly popular discipline; there are approximately 100 000 people who practice t’ai chi in Britain. Incidentally the boffins have no idea about why it is so beneficial to our health even though it has been practised a mere 2000 years!
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