It’s a new year, so let’s shape up our health

Trumbull County is among the most smoker-heavy counties in the country, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the county has well more than twice the national average of the population puffing on cigarettes, the Tribune Chronicle reported last week.

It’s a dubious title to hold, but admirably, agencies and local leaders are working to change that. The FDA has launched a $60 million initiative called Every Try Counts, a first-ever campaign to deliver a quitting message in a positive and motivational way, placed directly in the places they buy their cigarettes.

Kudos for that, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great start.

But, boy, we sure have a long way to go when it comes to healthy lifestyles.

Not only are we smokers, but we are overweight, we prefer fast food or other junk food to healthy, low-fat meals. We don’t like to move, and apparently, we drink too much alcohol, too.

What is it with Americans? We are motivated, proud and hardworking in so many areas, yet when it comes to our health, way too many of us are just downright unmotivated and lazy.

Here are a few eye-opening statistics I found last week on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We overeat.

• About 40 percent of adults ages 20 and over are labeled as obese, and about 71 percent are labeled as “overweight.”

Sadly, these habits start young.

• 21 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 years are labeled obese; 17 percent of kids ages 6-11 years are obese; and about 10 percent of youngsters between the ages of 2 and 5 are obese.

Poor diet and eating habits are further exacerbated by the fact that we, as Americans, simply don’t move.

• About 52 percent of adults over age 18 meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity.

• About 22 percent of adult Americans meet that guideline for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

Then add in the fact that we drink too much.

• About 25 percent of adults over age 18 reported to the CDC that they had at least one heavy drinking day — consisting of five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women — in the past year. Sure, it’s OK to blow off steam once in a while, but it’s the next stats that may raise concern.

• The CDC’s 2014 report (the most recent stats available) indicates that 19,388 people died of alcoholic liver disease, and 30,722 people died of alcohol-induced deaths — EXCLUDING accidents and homicides.

And, apparently, a lot of us — one in 10 of us — are using illegal drugs.

The CDC also reported in 2016 that more than 10 percent of Americans over the age of 12 (yes, 12) admitted they participated in illicit drug use in the past month.

And back to cigarette smoking. It is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the United States each year. It is the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths in the nation. I think most smokers already know how bad it is for their bodies, but that still doesn’t make it easy to quit.

That’s why the FDA and several other local programs are offering help.

There’s a lot of help out there for many of these other health issues, too, and much of it is free of charge.

The Tribune Chronicle publishes a list of help groups, programs, meetings and services almost every day in the “Seeing Eye” column that appears on our Community page.

Lists of healthy opportunities also run in our “Health notes” column every Tuesday.

And on our Tuesday Health page for the next several weeks, you’ll be able to read about healthy eating and weight loss tips offered by experts at Mercy Health, co-sponsor of the Tribune Chronicle’s annual Fitness Challenge weight loss contest.

Whatever it takes, it’s a new year. It’s never too late to get started shaping up.