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Obesity: Health & Economic Impact

Posted on June 1, 2017 at 10:39 AM by Iowa Weight Loss Specialists


Obesity is an epidemic. The United States has the unfortunate honor of having the highest obesity rate in the world compared to other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.1 There are many countries close behind, making this a growing concern for the health of not just our own citizens, but of all citizens across the world.


In the U.S., there is not a single state that has an obesity rate lower than 20%. Iowa is ranked 12th (32.1%) in the nation for the highest obesity rate.2


In 2014, 188.6 million Americans, or 60.7% of our population over age 2, were overweight or obese. Of this population, 36.4% of adults were obese. 3


How has this happened? Simple stated, we eat more and do less.


We live sedentary lifestyles where forms of entertainment mean watching TV, playing video games and going to movies. We consume low-cost, high-calorie fast food because of convenience. We work at desks and not in the fields or labor force like we once had, which kept us physically in shape by expelling calories.


Obesity is our number one health concern in the U.S. One that we have allowed to spread like wildfire with the acceptance of fast food, large food portions and unhealthy diet choices and sedentary lifestyles listed above.


The healthcare costs associated with those who are overweight or obese are growing alongside the number of cases each year and it’s important as ever to focus on preventative healthcare and healthy lifestyles.


Many people contribute diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension with being overweight, but the list is much longer.


The following are diseases and health conditions that are directly and indirectly attributable to being overweight or obese:

  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer: Breast cancer, gastric cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, renal cancer, esophageal cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, gallbladder cancer, colon cancer and pancreatic cancer
  • Chronic back pain
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stroke


In 2014, the direct costs of medical treatment for health conditions related to obesity and overweight totaled $427.8 billion. The indirect costs totaled $988.8 billion. Between direct and indirect costs, it was a total of $1.42 trillion spent, or 8.2% of our U.S. gross domestic product. 1


Obesity is not only hurting our health, but also our economy. Many of the above stated direct and indirect costs are related to productivity, or lack thereof, in the workplace. These include lost workdays, absenteeism, and low productivity or under-performance while at work.


The bottom line: we need to lose the excess weight.


There is a silver lining. Studies have shown that the negative impacts on health and the economy can be reversed by a 5% reduction in weight for those who are obese and have a BMI of 40 or more. To break it down, for obese men, that would mean losing roughly 14 lbs. and for women, losing roughly 12 lbs. This small reduction in overall weight would yield an annual medical cost savings of $34.9 trillion across the U.S., or $2,137 individually. 3


It’s time to make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent any future health risks or reduce or eliminate current health risks.


Man putting workout gear into gym bag at workHealthy lifestyle changes include:

  • Exercise daily for 30 minutes or vigorously 3 times a week
  • Meet with one of our nutritionists for help with a balanced diet
  • Avoid fast food and soft drinks
  • Schedule your annual check-ups with your physician, especially if you have a family history of weight-related health concerns like those listed above
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Weight loss programs – we offer both medical and surgical weight loss solutions, which are effective for those who cannot lose or keep excess weight off


At Iowa Weight Loss Specialists, your health is our priority. We want to see all of our patients live a long, healthy and productive life. For more information on obesity and how we can help you lose excess weight, contact us today at 515-327-2000 or register for one of our free information sessions.




2. The State Of Obesity

3. The Milken Institute

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