A healthy lifestyle is often defined by experts as being physically active, consuming a good diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight – by this definition a mere 3 percent of American adults are living a life conducive to good health (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2005). Of the four above factors, maintaining a healthy weight is arguably the most important for good health, unfortunately, 36 percent of Americans are overweight and almost 26 percent of Americans are considered obese. This means that the majority of American adults need to lose weight, and the fat epidemic is growing larger every year. In fact, a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May 2007) estimates that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030, which amounts to approximately 32 million more obese individuals then there are today. What’s more 25 percent of them will be considered morbidly obese, which is defined as being more than 100 pounds overweight. Obesity not only compromises good health, it also vastly increases work absenteeism and medical costs as well as an individual’s risk for sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer, amongst other conditions.
What the Increase in Obesity Could Mean
The current forecasted increase in obesity is not as dire as the one published in 2008, which estimated that 42 percent of Americans would be obese in 2030. Nevertheless, obesity already places a huge burden on the health and economic welfare of Americans, and even a minute increase in obesity rates, would result in a substantial rise in health-care costs. Currently, health disorders related to obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure, account for between 9 and 18 percent of total health-care spending in the United States and that amounts to a whopping 190.2 billion healthcare dollars per year!
We need to take immediate action to prevent an increase in obesity and a failure to do so will yield a catastrophic effect on national health, work productivity and health care costs. According to lead study author Eric Finkelstein, PhD., if we can find a way to keep obesity rates level, it could result in a $550 billion dollar savings in medical expenses, over the next twenty years. “People need to make healthy choices, but the healthy choices must first be available and accessible in order to make them,” states William Dietz, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.
Obesity Prevention – Why Your Weight is Such an Issue
With this in mind, the Institute of Medicine released a report (“Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation”), on May 8th, with a set of potential solutions to reduce the risk of obesity, help Americans obtain good health, and reverse the obesity epidemic. Proposed actions include: integrating physical activity every day in every way, marketing what matters for a health life, making healthy foods and beverages available everywhere, activating employers and health care professionals, and strengthening schools as the heart of health. Accomplishing even one of these actions would help to reduce the risk for obesity amongst the general population; however, the Institute of Medicine believes that accomplishing all 5 of them could result in a dramatic progression in obesity prevention.