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Infection Protection, Evils of Sugar Top 2014's Major Health Stories

The year 2014 was full of eye-opening research and alarming health alerts, with headlines including threats from potentially harmful viruses, too much sugar and expanding waistlines.

But there were also positive outcomes on a few fronts, including noteworthy progress in the battle against cancer and improved heart-health guidelines, which should benefit more people.

The news staff of Health, Life and Community chose the following as the top five health-related stories of the year:

5. Waistlines Expanding

One study after another heralds the health benefits of exercise and proper nutrition, but most Americans don’t seem to be getting the message, experts say.

The evidence: Average waistlines have expanded significantly from 1999 to 2012, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this September.

The average man’s waist grew from 38.9 inches to 39.7 inches; the average woman’s waist expanded more, from 36.3 inches to 37.8 inches, according to the research published in the medical journal, JAMA.

Even more troubling is the news about “abdominal obesity” —  a condition that increases the risks of diabetes, heart disease and premature death, according to previous studies.  A new study shows 43 percent of men and 64 percent of women are in the more risk-prone abdominal-obesity zone. That’s up from 37 percent of men and 55 percent of women in 1999.

A study released in December found that being overweight or obese can steal up to eight years from a person’s life.

The good news? “Losing as little as 10 percent of excess body weight seems to have health benefits,” Cathy Clark-Reyes, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health Primary Care.  “That’s a realistic start.”

Here are more articles on weight and health: