Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said, ”While this report shows we’re continuing to make progress in improving Americans’ health, we know that we can do much more to reduce the impact of diabetes and other chronic, preventable diseases.”
Life expectancy at birth has risen nearly two years since 1990 and hit a record high of 77.2 years in 2001, according to the annual snapshot of the nation’s health compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s health statistics agency.
“This [report] tells the whole story, that while we are living longer and we are healthier, that there are many things that are not going in the right direction,” researcher Amy Bernstein, who put together the report, told Reuters.
One troubling finding in the report was the rise in type 2 or adult-onset diabetes. According to the CDC, regular exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing this type of diabetes.
The report found that in 2002, 6.5 percent of American adults had been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 5.1 percent in 1997.
Another 12 million adults have impaired fasting glucose tolerance — meaning that many of these people will develop diabetes if they do not lose weight and exercise more.
“We are at the cusp of a problem that can even get much worse,” Bernstein said.
Diabetes was the fifth leading cause of death among women and sixth among men in 2001. People with diabetes risk developing severe complications, including heart disease, chronic kidney disease, blindness and amputations.
“Prevention is the only sure way to stem this epidemic,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. “By eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can greatly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”
The report also found the number of overweight Americans is increasing. The obesity rate climbed to 31 percent in 1999-2000 up from 15 percent in 1976-80. Sixty-five percent of adults ages 20 to 74 were overweight or obese in 1999-2000.
About a quarter of all Americans admit they get almost no exercise at home or at work, according to the report.
“People are not exercising as much as recommended,” Bernstein said. “In fact, the trend is going in the opposite direction.”
The agency reported that 28 percent of women 18 and older and nearly 22 percent of men say they get little or no exercise at home, work or in their leisure time.
Just 21 percent of men and 17 percent of women get “high” levels of activity — meaning they are active at work and get the equivalent of five brisk, 30-minute walks or three intense exercise sessions each week.
Positive news from the report included a narrowing of the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites. In 2001, whites lived 5.5 years longer than blacks, down from 7 years in 1990.
The percentage of mothers who received prenatal care in the first trimester increased to 83 percent, up from 76 percent in 1990.
Infant mortality reached a record low in 2001 of 6.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 6.9 in 2000.