The Good News about Smoking and Obesity

Americans got some bad news twice this week when it comes to our general health.

Smoking and obesity are keeping us from potentially living as long as people in parts of Europe and Japan, according to the National Research Council. And yet the United States spends more on health care.

Indeed, the news for women got even worse. A new study shows that women who smoke at a young age before they have children will increase their risk of breast cancer by 18 percent.

The sobering information comes from the Nurses Health Study that followed more than 111,000 women from 1976 to 2006. It was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

But here’s the good news that bears mentioning.

It’s all preventable.

Eating too much food, shunning exercise, making poor choices in the grocery store and lighting up cigarettes are all things that we do to ourselves.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s never too late to quit smoking. Doctors are happy to coach their patients how to do it. Some prescribe medications to help control cravings. A government website with suggestions and resources is dedicated to helping people quit smoking. It was developed by health professionals and former smokers.

People also can lose weight. Weight loss does not have to be a mystery. Physicians, nutritionists and personal trainers help people every day take steps to change their bad eating habits and find their way onto the treadmill.

Guess who is stopping us from making these important strides: ourselves.

Alice Warchol is a fitness instructor and freelance health writer.

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