Two years ago, Scott, a 54-year-old Fort Dodge man suffered from debilitating knee pain and was at extreme risk for a stroke because his blood pressure was so high. Now, after losing 100 lbs., his blood pressure is normal, and his knee pain has disappeared.
The healthcare dilemma Scott faced in 2020 (learn more about his story here) is not that unusual. Approximately 2 out of 5 adults in the United States are living with the consequences of obesity. Iowa has the 12th highest obesity rate in nation.
No longer considered a cosmetic issue caused by overeating and a lack of self-control, the World Health Organization (WHO) now recognizes obesity as a chronic progressive disease resulting from multiple environmental and genetic factors. An individual is considered morbidly obese if he or she has a body mass index (BMI) of 35 to 40.
What is now better known is that obesity brings about other medical and health problems, and disease. Obesity in adults is associated with at least 60 co-morbidities including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer.
In Iowa, obesity has more than doubled over the last 30 years – Iowa now has the 12th highest adult obesity rate in the nation according to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America” released in Sept. 2016. Iowa’s obesity rate is 32.1 percent, up for 20.9 percent in 2000 and from 12.2 percent in 1990.
Child obesity on the rise
According to the CDC, childhood obesity puts children and adolescents at risk for poor health and unfortunately it is on the rise. From 2017-2021 obesity affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents ages 2-19 years old. Obesity related conditions for children and adolescents include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea and joint problems. Childhood obesity is also associated with psychological problems such as anxiety and depression, low self-esteem and lower self reported quality of life, social problems such as bullying and stigma.
The financial burden of obesity
The annual obesity-related medical care costs in the United States were estimated to be nearly $173 billion. Medical costs for adults who had obesity were $1,861 higher than medical costs for people with healthy weight.
Direct medical costs may include preventative, diagnostic, and treatment services. Indirect costs relate to sickness and death and include lost productivity. Productivity measures include employees being absent from work for obesity-related health reasons, decreased productivity while at work, and premature death and disability.
Losing weight improves health
The good news is that people who are overweight or obese can improve or eliminate some of their related health and medical issues just by losing 5-15% of their body weight.
According to the National Institute of Health, if an individual is at risk for type 2 diabetes, losing 5-7% of their body weight and getting regular physical exercise may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. And losing 5-10% of weight may lower a person’s risk factors for developing heart disease. If an individual weighs 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds, Weight loss may improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.
The best first place for individuals to talk about weight issues are with their primary care provider who can do an assessment of a patient and offer a spectrum of options for losing weight – from lifestyle modification (following a healthier diet and increasing their movement and exercise) to bariatric surgeries if indicated.
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