Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


March 8, 2011

Obesity presents several health issues

GLASGOW — America is fat and getting fatter by the decade – and Kentucky has the unenviable distinction of being one of the fattest states in the nation.

Information provided by Beverly J. Mortimer, APRN, FNP-C with the Bale Center for Prevention, during a recent women’s health conference showed 66 percent, or two-thirds, of the United States’ population is now overweight or obese. Adults who are obese have a 50 to 100 percent greater chance of dying early.

Obesity is now the No. 1 preventable killer in the country, according to Mortimer, and obesity rates have risen in every single state during the past 20 years.

In 1985, only eight states had populations with more than 10 percent of whom were obese or had a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. Kentucky was one of those states.

By 1994, all 50 states had reached that threshold and in 2009, nine states had obesity rates of more than 30 percent. Kentucky ranked as the seventh fattest state in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.

All but one state, Colorado, now have obesity rates of 20 percent or higher.

An overweight population has more health problems on average, according to information from Mortimer. In 2008, obesity-related medical care costs were estimated at $147 billion, which is almost 10 percent of all money spent on health care.

The health consequences of obesity include increased risks of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, respiratory illnesses, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis and hormonal abnormalities. Every one unit of increase in BMI increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 10 percent.

Anyone with of a body mass index of 25 or higher is considered to be overweight. BMI is measured by dividing a person’s weight by his/her height in inches times height in inches then multiplying by 703.

Another indicator to check is waist circumference. Men with a measurement of more than 40 inches and women with a measurement of more than 35 inches have increased risks of health problems.

Adults aren’t the only ones struggling with obesity. In the last three decades, overweight numbers and obesity in adolescents have increased 75 percent. A third of all American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are now overweight and 17 percent are obese.

The only guaranteed way to decrease weight is to make sure one is expending more calories than are being consumed. In other words, eat less and exercise more.

People trying to lose weight should stay away from concentrated sweets such as cookies, candy, juice and sodas.

Sugar consumption has increased by 25 percent in America during the last three decades. A majority of that can be attributed to carbonated beverages, according to Mortimer. There are more than 40 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda, which is the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. If a person drinks one can a day for a year, it’s the same as eating 32 pounds of sugar and can result in a potential weight gain of 18 pounds.

Choosing foods that are lower in fat and sugar, higher in fiber and eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains are commonsense ways to affect weight loss. People shouldn’t skip breakfast or eat fast food more than once a week, Mortimer added.

People should consume four to six small meals throughout the day plus snacks instead of three large ones. Think smaller portions, eat slowly and leave a few bites on the plate.

An adequate amount of sleep – seven to eight hours a night – is also important in maintaining a healthy weight.

Drinking half of one’s body weight in ounces of water each day is recommended. For example, a person who weighs 200 pounds should consume 100 ounces of water per day. One gallon of water equals 128 fluid ounces.

As little as 10 minutes per day of exercise can have beneficial effects by stabilizing blood sugar and reducing cravings. Low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming, biking and yoga have a positive impact on cardiovascular health without putting undue stress on joints.

Lifestyle changes can make a difference as well. Leave the car at the far perimeter of the parking lot when shopping and walk to and from the building. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Even simple things such as pacing while talking on the phone or fidgeting while sitting burns more calories. It all adds up.

Small, steady steps and changes through time and perseverance are the keys to long-term weight reduction, according to Mortimer.

“Weight loss is hard work and it won’t come in a potion, pill or injection. Behavior changes must occur to have successful weight loss,” she said.

For more information on obesity statistics, visit the CDC website at /trends.html.

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