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Editorial: Let’s commit to better health

Starting is the first step, but following through on a commitment takes dedication.

Dedication is especially critical when it comes to improving personal health.

By now, most New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned. The gym membership has been canceled or is unnecessarily drawing money from a bank account. That resolution to permanently quit smoking went up in flames weeks ago.

Statistics contained in Rowan’s recent State of the County Health Report prove there are reasons to dust off the abandoned New Year’s resolutions and commit to long-term improvement.

For example, 20 percent of adults in Rowan County smoke. About 34 percent of adults here are considered obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more. Both numbers are above the state averages.

Results of unhealthy practices are clearly reflected in the county’s leading causes of death. The top three are cancer, diseases of the heart and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

First, it’s critical that we take charge of our health for personal reasons.

There are obvious benefits to regular exercise and healthy eating. Additionally, exercise is associated with an improved overall mood, according to a 2001 article published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Other studies have found physical activity can lead to improved concentration.

Quitting smoking is tough, but it’s also critical to improved personal health. Headaches and constant cravings can make it easy to relapse, despite strong convictions to quit. Quitting, however, improves health risks by measurable amounts. Just one year after quitting, risks for a heart attack drop sharply, and, within five years, risks for a stroke drop to that of a nonsmokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

It’s relatively easy to take the first step, eat the first healthy meal or avoid a few drags of a cigarette. Those commitments become more difficult over a period of days and weeks. After a few months, routine makes it easier to stomach a new, healthy habit.

Second, and more relevant to the general public, a community commitment to improved health boosts the local quality of life.

On a personal level, Rowan County should commit itself to improved health for the remainder of 2017.

On a policy level, community leaders should add health into the bucket of priorities that already includes issues such as economic development and education.

Starting a communitywide commitment to health is easy, and dedicating Rowan County to long term progress should be a task we’re all willing to work on.

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