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Study: Americans have distorted view of health, weight

Study: Americans have distorted view of health, weight

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SALT LAKE CITY -- We may see ourselves one way in the mirror, but our medical charts tell a different story.

A new study shows Americans have a distorted view of their health. They think they're thinner or healthier than they actually are.

Health experts say this skewed perception could put their lives as risk.

"You can't feel high cholesterol, and most of the time you can't even feel high blood pressure," explains Julie Hansen, nutrition professor at Weber State University. "So I don't think people know unless they get it measured."

As part of a recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey, respondents were asked to provide their height and weight in order to calculate their body-mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. Respondents then had to classify themselves into several weight range categories.

The results showed 30 percent of people classified as overweight actually thought they were "normal" size, while 70 percent of people classified as obese also thought they were of "normal" weight. Of those classified as morbidly obese, almost 60 percent thought there were merely obese.

Hansen says this skewed perception puts our lives at risk.

"Any other type of disease, this would be like an epidemic," explains Hansen. "This is an epidemic, but people seem to be OK with it."

Hansen also says popular culture is not adding to the obesity solution. She says manufacturers are making clothes and other things bigger and then slapping smaller labels on them to make us feel good.

"There are a lot of accommodations. We're making a larger seat and larger coffin, and larger medical beds," she says. "I don't think we really need to start changing clothing sizes."

The study also showed those surveyed felt their weight problems were less a food issue and more a lack of exercise.


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