Obesity: Some Heavy Numbers

There’s no two ways about it — America is getting fatter. The nationwide trend toward obesity threatens to outpace the great strides made over the last 30 years in preventive cardiology as well as related healthcare technologies and treatments. It’s sad to report that, as a practicing cardiologist, I’m preparing for the looming storm of heart attacks and strokes that will strike our young, overweight population. In addition to the sedentary lifestyle that is plaguing our nation, the shift to a high carbohydrate diet dominated by processed foods is largely to blame for widespread obesity, and a wide range of other debilitating ailments and conditions.

Some statistics from the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control may help drive this point home:

A growing problem

  • The number of states with an obesity prevalence of 30% or more has increased to 12 states in 2010. In 2009, nine states had obesity rates of 30% or more. In 2000, no state had an obesity prevalence of 30% or more.
  • Over two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese
    All adults: 68 percent
    Women: 64.1 percent
    Men: 72.3 percent
  • Fewer than one-third of all U.S. adults are at a healthful weight.
  • Only 31% of U.S. adults report that they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity (definition: three sessions per week of vigorous physical activity lasting 20 minutes or more, or five sessions per week of light-to-moderate physical activity lasting 30 minutes or more). About 40 percent of adults report no leisure-time physical activity.

The damage

  • Obesity is associated with over 112,000 excess deaths due to cardiovascular disease, over 15,000 excess deaths due to cancer, and over 35,000 excess deaths due to non-cancer, non-cardiovascular disease causes per year in the U.S. population, relative to healthy-weight individuals.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion.
  • On average, people who are considered obese pay $1,429 (42%) more in health care costs than normal-weight individuals.

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