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Obesity Is the Future of Chronic Disease

In a recent post, I excoriated athletes like LeBron James and Peyton Manning for endorsing unhealthy junk foods – for fattening their wallets by fattening our population. A recent study in Health Affairs provides a powerful illustration of the future effects of these fatty foods. The study is a rather dry and technical one, involving statistical predictions of population health demographics (Zzzz) using a health care Demand Microsimulation Model (Double Zzzz). Study methods aside, however, the authors paint a clear picture of what chronic diseases will look like in the next decade. Here’s one of those pictures:

obesity and chronic conditions

The picture shows rapid growth of a number of chronic diseases, growth far exceeding that of the population. And every one of these chronic diseases is caused or exacerbated by, you guessed it, obesity! Strokes and heart attacks – often from high blood pressure, diabetes, and clogged arteries, themselves all caused in part by obesity. Dyslipidemia: that is a fancy word for high cholesterol, a problem also made worse by obesity. Even arthritis is often aggravated by obesity, with people’s girth placing excessive strain on fragile joints.

In recent years, we have made a bit of progress in combatting obesity in the U.S. The CDC reported in 2013, for example, that some states are seeing a decline in obesity rates among children. But this decline is still tiny in comparison to the rapid growth rate of obesity. According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of U.S. adults are obese, with medical costs of obesity running near $150 billion annually.

$150 billion!

The Health Affairs study pictured above shows that these costs are likely to rise dramatically over the next decade.  We have lots of work to do still, to get our obesity problem under control. We literally cannot afford to ignore this problem.

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