Major Health Problems in the United States

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  • 0:01 The American Stereotype
  • 0:54 Obesity by the Numbers
  • 2:05 Major U.S. Health Problems
  • 5:28 HIV, AIDS, Smoking & More
  • 6:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Ever wonder what the most common health-related problems are in the United States? You're about to find out what they are and how some of them are related.

The American Stereotype

Having been exposed to a wide range of foreign countries while growing up, the old stereotype of Americans being 'fat, lazy, and stupid' among other nationalities was rife. I always questioned the validity of this assumption. If we are so lazy and stupid then why are we the sole superpower on this planet with massive advancements in science and technology on almost a daily basis? I never heard a good rebuttal.

However, it was really hard to argue against the fat argument. Perhaps because we work so hard we have little time to exercise or monitor healthy eating. But that's a really bad excuse and obesity is truly a major problem in this country that cannot be swept under the rug and should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, it's not the only public health problem affecting the U.S., as this lesson shall seek to point out.

Obesity by the Numbers

Obesity is a term that describes too much body fat, commonly classified as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. A BMI uses a person's height and weight to come up with a number that gives an approximation of body fat in a person. A range of 25-29.9 is considered overweight, 30-39.9 is considered obese, and greater than 40 is considered to be severely or morbidly obese.

Some clinicians do not consider a BMI to be a good way to measure obesity and they classify obesity in men as a percentage of body fat greater than 25% and obesity in women as a percentage of body fat greater than 33%. As of this writing, more than 33% of this country's men and women are considered to be obese and upwards of 25% of this nation's children are considered to be overweight or obese.

So, what? You ask. A little fat helps to protect from the cold. True, it does. But too much fat can lead to a lot of problems. Let's examine just some of them.

Major U.S. Health Problems

Being overweight or obese has been directly tied to causing or exacerbating numerous major health problems in America we're about to discuss. Some of these can and most certainly do occur on their own, without a person's weight being an issue, but being overweight or obese many times plays a critical role in their development. These other common health problems in the U.S. include:

  • Heart disease, a general term for conditions affecting the structure and function of the heart, such as coronary artery disease.
  • Arthritis, the inflammation of the joints as a result of wear, tear, and excess pressure from sports, obesity, infections, and autoimmune disease. The suffix -itis refers to inflammation and the prefix arthro- refers to a joint. So, we have inflammation of a joint.

Other common health problems include:

  • Malignant neoplasia, the technical terms for cancer. The word neo- implies something that's new, and -plasia refers to growth. So we get the new growth of malignant (meaning very bad) cells.
  • Diabetes mellitus, a condition that results in elevated blood sugar.
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure. 'Tension' refers to the pressure of something, and hyper- references the elevation of it, therefore hypertension refers to elevation in blood pressure.
  • And other problems, such as stroke, kidney disease, and respiratory infections.

For those of you who are not overweight or obese and for those of you who are but are lucky to not be suffering from these problems, it may not seem all that bad. But I want to make one point very clear. Most of the problems I described above, once they occur, cannot be reversed and lead to a domino effect of many other life-threatening issues. In fact about 1 in 5 deaths in this country are associated with obesity. Don't play with your health, because once it's gone, it's gone for good.

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