The numbers don’t lie—obesity in America is a real and growing threat to the health and wellness of millions, both young and old.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 34.9% of U.S. adults are considered medically obese—that’s 78.6 million people in this country! But do you know how bad obesity is for the body? With the life-threatening illnesses and complications that come from being overweight, it’s no wonder that the “obesity epidemic” in the United States is inspiring all types of healthy living initiatives from the grocery store to Capitol Hill.
"These statistics really highlight the alarming reality of America's obesity problem. The increased risk of health problems connected to obesity are very serious, and shouldn't be ignored. A proper diet is the first step in one's journey to overcome obesity, but couple that with a total body workout and dedication and you will achieve long-term weight loss." -
- Lyman Good, Profesional UFC Fighter, Fitness Instructor Click to Tweet!
Obesity in America by the Numbers
Forget the numbers on the scale and the clothing size you want to fit in—obesity has some even more startling numbers connected with it. According to the Center for Disease Control, a shocking 17% of children ages 2 to 19 are considered not just overweight, but obese. Obesity for adults is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30.0. Illnesses caused by eating too unhealthily and carrying a harmful body weight are some of the leading causes of preventable death in this country—including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. In fact, as reported by the Harvard School of Public Health, overweight people have 32% higher risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD), while those who are obese have 81% higher risk!
With that in mind, consider that the National Institutes of Health estimate that 300,000 Americans die each year due to the obesity epidemic. That’s like the whole population of Cincinnati, Ohio being wiped out from obesity-related illnesses! On average, an obese individual’s annual medical costs are $1,429 higher than someone of healthy weight. That much money can pay for a whole family’s gym membership and some healthier food options.
"Some estimate that as much as 30 percent of all U.S. spending on health care is related to obesity: type II diabetes; arthritis and joint replacement surgery; kidney failure as well as heart failure–all are related to our body mass."
- Dr. Deane Waldman Click to Tweet!
Some Hidden Causes of Obesity
One of the best things you can do for your health is to take a good hard look at the food you eat. Huge contributors to the rise in obesity are the added fats, sugars, and chemicals lurking in foods that seem harmless. The New York Times reports that Americans eat 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar in their foods, with half of them coming from sugary drinks and sodas. And when you have a meal at a restaurant, you have no idea how many calories, grams of fat, or what types of ingredients are used to make your dish. So you might be looking at just one meal that packs a 1,500+ calorie punch—more than half the recommended daily intake for an average person. There has been a growing trend—and legislation in some states—that demands that food establishments list the calorie and fat content on menus to fully inform customers.
Combating Obesity in the United States
You may not be surprised to hear this, but preventing and combating the dangerous health effects of obesity have to do with exercise and eating habits that are often shaped when we’re young. Only 20.8% of adults over 18 years old meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for both muscle-strengthening and aerobic physical activity. Those guidelines recommend that Americans shoot for a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. Many gyms offer trial periods or discounted first classes so that you can try a particular type of exercise before you commit to membership fees. The key to consistent and goal-achieving weight loss and management is to find a type of exercise you enjoy doing!
Seeing such a high number of children already categorized as obese really makes you stop and think of the direction America is going in with their nutrition and lifestyle habits." Martial Arts is something I started at a young age and credit my training for the impact it's had on my life in terms of health and fitness. It instills proper habits from the start while students learn invaluable life skills."
- Jimmie Rivera, Profesional UFC Fighter, Fitness Instructor Click to Tweet!
Healthier eating is also crucial to maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI). Unfortunately, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that eating costs about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy diet, which really isn’t too much to pad to your grocery budget.
There has also been a legislative move to end “food desserts”—a term for urban and rural areas that are more than a mile away from healthy, affordable food options in supermarkets or restaurants. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative is working to develop grocery stores, small retailers and corner stores, and farmers markets to offer healthy and affordable food options to their community.
"The new U.S. watch cry to cut healthcare costs should be: Eat Right and Get Moving
- Dr. Deane Waldman Click to Tweet!
What You Can Do
One of the best defenses against the slippery slope of ongoing weight gain is to be aware of your eating habits and establishing an exercise routine that you stick to. If you’re passionate about inspiring healthy habits in others, then consider pursuing a career in healthcare or nutrition. And share this infographic to alert your friends and family to the dangers that unhealthy eating can lead to!
By Jill Kapinus