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Report says obesity is taking toll on nation’s health

FILE - This is a Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007 file photo of an overweight person eating in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

WASHINGTON — More than one-third of Americans are obese, and new data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention underscores the toll it’s taking on the nation’s health.

The CDC says there were 11 million doctors’ visits in 2012 for obesity-related health problems. Women had a significantly higher visit rate than men, and patients over 40 had a higher rate than younger adults.

Those numbers aren’t surprising to Dr. Patricia Davidson, a cardiologist with the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute. She sees patients with obesity-related issues all the time, and believes the actual number of obese patients seeking medical care “is definitely much higher.”

According to the CDC, 73 percent of the obesity-related office visits in 2012 dealt with a chronic condition, with hypertension — or high blood pressure — at the top of the list. Another big problem was, and is, diabetes.

“As your weight goes up, you become more insulin resistant and your sugar goes up,” Davidson says.

She says all doctors need to reenforce the importance of weight reduction and a healthy lifestyle during their interactions with obese patients.

The CDC says guidance is offered during 40 percent of obesity-related office visits, and Davidson says that is not nearly good enough.

“Our goal needs to be prevention of disease,” she explains, “and so we need to start very early, from the pediatricians all the way up.”

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