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A growing problem

It appears there’s a growing problem in the United States that will prove costly in terms of both health and money. That problem is obesity.

A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine predicts that more than half of all American adults will be obese by 2030. Because it is an unpleasant reality to face, we have many ways of referring to our weight problems that tend to diminish the seriousness of the situation. We may say that someone is “pleasantly plump,” for example. But dismissing the fact that being overweight comes with increased risks for dangerous health issues is a mistake.

Obesity can lead or contribute to a variety of medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Being overweight also can sap your energy and make it more difficult to perform daily tasks or to participate in recreational activities.

The new work by scientists at Harvard and George Washington universities used decades’ worth of actual weight measurements, rather than relying on surveys in which subjects have the chance to understate their weight. It found that about 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese today, and it predicts that number will rise to 49 percent across the nation by 2030. The rate will be even higher in 29 states.

In addition, it estimates that 24 percent of all adults will be severely obese at that point. That is most likely to be the case in lower-income states, perhaps because people who can better afford food make wiser food choices.

Unfortunately, our region is one of those lower-income areas – and we already know that obesity is a local issue. The new study does not make recommendations on how to reverse these trends, but there is plenty of information available on how individuals and communities can make efforts to reduce their weight and improve their health.

We know it can be difficult – especially during the holidays – but we urge you to consider ways to improve your health. A diet containing lots of fruits, grains and vegetables can help maintain a healthy weight. Exercise, such as walking, swimming or hiking, often can be done for free. Most importantly, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about what you can do to remain fit and healthy in the coming decade.

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