We need to listen to doctors and lower smoking and obesity rates

A recent message from the acting chief of professional staff at Bluewater Health offered a strong message about the dire need to decrease obesity and smoking rates in Sarnia-Lambton.

Dr. Michel Haddad said it will take a combination of people taking matters into their own hands, but also to not be shy about asking healthcare providers for help.

It’s obvious a large segment of our population needs that help before their health is compromised. Twenty-two per cent of Lambton adults are obese, compared to 17 per cent of Ontarians. The figures are comparable for smoking.

Haddad says doctors can provide advice and the necessary tools to help people quit smoking and lose weight. But he also called on the government to do more to regulate salt and trans fat in foods. As the doctor says, making healthy food more affordable and more accessible would really help those looking to make a lifestyle change.

A Report on Canadians’ Health, released earlier this month, showed most Canadians believe they are healthier than they are. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, nine out of 10 people in Canada have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but 90 per cent of those in a recent poll rated themselves as healthy. The report also says half of Canadians don’t meet physical activity and healthy eating recommendations while two thirds of those polled believe they do. Almost 25 per cent of Canadians are obese but only 18 per cent believe they are.

Clearly, we are only fooling ourselves with these misconceptions. The public needs to pay more attention to educational campaigns launched by local, provincial and federal health care professionals that take direct aim at our unhealthy lifestyles.

One would think the incentive of a healthy life would be enough for those who are obese and who smoke to make those changes. Sadly, it is these individuals who end up costing the system millions because of the huge health issues related to smoking and obesity. If those rates don’t change in the future, how on earth will our health care system be able to handle the load?

Sadly, just 15 per cent of adults and seven per cent of children reach the weekly Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommendations. It’s especially disturbing to see the low participation number for children and does not bode well for our health system in the future.

It’s time we got serious about the issue and took action on recommendations by physicians. If you are overweight and if you smoke and are not experiencing health issues, it is just a matter of time before you do. Make the changes today that could save your life tomorrow.

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