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Tips for healthier living as obesity rates rise

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A new study from the Centers for Disease Control shows rising obesity rates across the United States. Nine states now have obesity rates above 30 percent, as opposed to three states in 2007.

“We’re getting more sedentary as technology advances,” said Bruce Ferguson, M.D., internal medicine physician at Weiss. For example, he added, people now instant message or e-mail each other at work instead of walking down the hall to talk.

The rises in obesity mean that 72.5 million people, or 26.7 percent of the population in the United States qualify as obese, according to the CDC. Medical complications from obesity cost the country an estimated $147 billion annually.

According to Dr. Ferguson, those health complications include arthritis, back pain, diabetes, hypertension and blood lipid abnormalities—such as elevated cholesterol or triglycerides.

A person’s body mass index (BMI) indicates whether the person is obese. Physicians calculate BMI using a patient’s height and weight, and if that number comes out to 30 or greater, the patient is obese.

However, those calculations do not account for muscle mass, which means an athletic, muscular person could qualify as overweight or obese even though they have more muscle than body fat.

However, Dr. Ferguson said, “It’s the best measurement we have right now that we can standardize across the population. When I see a patient whose BMI seems high, but I can physically tell she’s muscular, I discount the BMI.”

The nine states with 30 percent obesity rates are: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. All other states—except Colorado and Washington, D.C.—have obesity rates above 20 percent.

Obesity is more common among people older than age 50, which coincides with the general aging of the country’s largest generation, the Baby Boomers.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ferguson doesn’t see the trend changing. He said people need to make a greater effort to keep active. “Just move—whatever that is. Walking is fine, a mile to two a day. Exercise.”

He also suggested that people pay closer attention to the foods they eat, and he advocates use of the South Beach Diet. “But the first primary thing is you have to start moving.”

Read the New York Times article about rising obesity rates.

Calculate your BMI.

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