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For decades, obesity rates in the U.S. have been increasing. Now researchers predict that by 2030, nearly half of adults will be obese if the current trend continues.
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Dr. Donald Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, says that projection is concerning because obesity is related to a number of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
"From a health standpoint, it will contribute to decreased health status in the United States. Also, we spend a lot of money because of that, and, so, health care costs are going to continue to rise, and our quality of life and other things are going to continue to deteriorate," says Dr. Hensrud.
To reverse this trend, it's important to understand what has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
"There are many outside factors that influence obesity," explains Dr. Hensrud. "We've engineered physical activity out of our lives. A simple example I use is that we don't have to walk into the gas station to pay for our gas anymore. We just swipe at the pump. If we do things like that hundreds of times during the day and we're less active at work, all of that corresponds with decreased activity and increased weight."
Another factor is what we eat. He says the food supply has changed, and people are eating a lot of processed, higher-calorie foods.
"If we're going to reverse this trend, it's going to require cooperation of many different areas in society," Dr. Hensrud says. "All of us have some responsibility, but it's hard. It's like swimming upstream, but it's not impossible. We can each do some things, take baby steps, do a little bit more activity, change our diet a little bit and do it in a practical and enjoyable manner to make these habits sustainable."