WASHINGTON – Illinois’ obesity rate rose for a second year in a row, and the excess pounds are making people sicker.
In a report released Thursday , Illinois was ranked the 23rd fattest state in the nation, with nearly 28 percent of its adults obese, or at a body mass index of 30 or greater.
A body mass index is a ratio of height and weight, and under the standard BMI calculator, an adult who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 197 pounds or more would be considered obese.
In 1995, 15.3 percent of Illinois adults were obese.
Among all 50 states, Mississippi had the highest rate of obese adults at 34.3 percent and Colorado had the lowest at 19.8 percent, but no states saw their obesity rates decline since last year’s report, according to the report compiled by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Seven states saw their obesity rates double in 15 years and 10 other states had increases of at least 90 percent, researchers found.
Along with its growing obesity rate, Illinois’ rates of hypertension and diabetes – two illnesses linked to obesity – have grown since 1995, according to the report.
Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said the findings reflect “kind of a sad commentary on the direction the country is moving.”
While Illinois wasn’t alone among the states in its failure to trim down, she said, the state has worked, through several programs and educational outreach in the schools, to reduce obesity.
“So, in a sense, we’re disappointed,” she said.
Dr. Nathan Walker, an internal medicine physician at Christie Clinic, warns there are good reasons for everybody to work harder to reverse the obesity trend.
America spends more than $150 billion a year on health care related to obesity. Obese people live poorer-quality lives and die sooner, he said.
“On average, 70-80 percent of medical problems down the road will be obesity-related,” Walker said.
Some of the well-known obesity-related diseases are heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hypertension, but Walker said doctors are also seeing more sleep apnea and fatty liver disease.
“Even dementia is linked to obesity,” he said.
For patients to succeed at losing weight and keep it off, they need to keep two things in mind, he advises.