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Obesity: An Epidemic Today Yet Unwritten Future

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by Randall Flores, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona

In the past few decades, there has been an alarming and steady increase in obesity rates in the U.S. This affects people of all races and ages. More Americans live with obesity than breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and HIV all together. The medical community has been aware of the rising epidemic for many years, yet its response has not been effective at addressing the problem.

What is a Healthy Weight (BMI)?

Obese or overweight is defined as weight that is higher than what is considered a healthy weight for a given height measured as Body Mass Index (BMI)1. The levels of weight measured by BMI are listed below:

  • BMI < 18.5 = underweight
  • BMI 18.5 to <25 = within normal weight
  • BMI 25 to <30 = overweight
  • BMI >30 = obese

The Facts About Obesity

With an estimated population of 328.73 million people in the U.S.,6 the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% between 2015-2016, affecting nearly 93.3 million people.1 The estimated health care cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008 which was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. Obesity seems to have a racial/genetic link as Hispanic and non-Hispanic blacks had the highest prevalence with 47% and 46.8% respectively.2 Much of the obesity seen in the U.S. starts at a younger age and transcends into adulthood with a prevalence of 18.5% (ages 2-19) nearly affecting 13.7 million children.2 Similar to adults, obesity in children is more common in certain populations; Hispanics having the highest prevalence (25.8%) followed by non-Hispanic blacks (22%).2

Obesity-Related Health Conditions

The most common obesity-related diseases that result in premature deaths include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancers such as colorectal, pancreatic, and endometrial cancer.1,4 People who have obesity are also at increased risk for serious diseases including the following;3

High blood pressure Low quality of life
High levels of bad cholesterol &
low levels of good cholesterol
Sleep apnea & breathing problems
Gallbladder disease Mental illness, depression, anxiety, &
other mental disorders
Osteoarthritis Body pain & difficulty with physical functioning

A Push for Prevention

The epidemic of overweight and obese citizens in the nation is complex and has no simple solution. There are many factors that play a role in obesity. Due to its complexity, the epidemic of obesity needs to be approached through multiple outlets, with tactics in local, state, and federal organizations as well as professional health organizations.5 The long-term goal to decreasing obesity is shifting to norms of a healthy lifestyle, which include healthy eating and regular physical activity.5 Healthcare should also shift more of its efforts towards preventing obesity. Another key player in reversing the obesity epidemic is implementing community efforts that support a healthy lifestyle, such as food services, schools, childhood care, and clinics/hospitals.

Obesity and being overweight affects millions of people in our nation and worldwide. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of many serious diseases that are otherwise preventable. We must shift our efforts to the epidemic of obesity to halt its progression and strive towards a healthier future for younger generations to come.

 

References:

  1. Adult Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  2. Children Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
  3. Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences | Overweight & Obesity | CDC. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
  4. Obesity and Cancer. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/obesity-fact-sheet
  5. Strategies to Prevent Obesity. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/strategies/index.html
  6. S. and World Population Clock. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/popclock/

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