Riverside County among unhealthiest in state

Greg Lee, KESQ News Channel 3 Reporter & Sports Anchor, glee@kesq.com
POSTED: 06:17 PM PST Jan 28, 2013    UPDATED: 08:06 PM PST Jan 28, 2013 

The latest report from the Riverside County Department of Public Health shows some unnerving details about the county's health habits.  Riverside county ranks 32nd out of 58 counties in the state when it comes to public health. The main culprits, eating fast food and smoking.  "Down here in Palm Springs you see a lot of fast food places, and unfortunately you see a lot of smoking," said Christopher Wojcik.

The report shows more people in Riverside County smoke now than years past, and we also eat more fast food than another place in the state-- a bad recipe for our waistlines.  "The number one cause of weight gain is still sugar, and why is it attractive?" said Dr. Steven Nelson, a clinical biochemist.  "Because when you combine it with fat, it tastes good."

Not only that, it's cheaper than eating healthy, and it's quick and easy.
"Look at me, look at what I'm doing, it's convenient," said Victor Davila.

It might take less effort, but it's well documented, the consequences of too much fast food can be deadly.  "The girth size is the whole thing, so you're going to get heart disease, you're going to get strokes, you're going to get diabetes, you're going to get heart attacks," said Dr. Nelson.

In fact, 60% of early deaths in the county come as a result of the health problems Dr. Nelson listed. The increase in smoking only adds to the problem.
"You add smoke, smoke depletes oxygen," said Dr. Nelson. "When you deplete oxygen, you get more and more binding in these free radicals and eventually you get this snowball effect, where everything just starts going bad."

Harold Allen believes local governments can help curb the smoking issue by taking a cue from other California cities.  "I'm in San Francisco almost daily, and you cannot smoke within 25 feet of any door."

Using the findings from the report, the county hopes to launch a health initiative focusing on four areas:

-improve eating habits

-increase daily physical activity

-reduce tobacco rates

-building healthier environments that support walking, biking, and exercise

Dr. Nelson gives his simple advice, "Drink more water, exercise, get out in the sun a little bit and eat more protein."