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Obesity Epidemic in America is Undermining Public Health Initiatives

Public health efforts have placed a large focus on improving cardiovascular health in America over the past 2 decades. However, a recent study shows that these efforts have been undermined by the dramatic increase in obesity among the American population.

The study was presented on November 19th at the 2009 American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions by researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 8,264 men and women aged 20-85 years of age. The data was obtained between 1998-2006 from the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

During the 20-year time period, the researchers observed a significant increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) of the participants from 26.5 kg/m2 to 28.8 kg/m2. BMI is a measure of an individual's weight in relation to their height.

Additionally, the researchers saw a decrease in the number of people with optimal blood pressure from 48% between 1988-94, to 43% in 2005-06 and the number of people with optimal fasting glucose decreased from 67% to 58%.

Both blood pressure and blood glucose are closely linked to obesity and these negative trends are in line with the increase in BMI.

The study did find that the number of people with optimal LDL cholesterol levels increased from 22% to 28%, and the number of lifetime nonsmokers improved from 45% to 50%. However, these factors were undermined by the decreases in optimal blood pressure and fasting glucose.

The researchers stated that there has been no net improvement in the overall cardiovascular risk factor profile in the US population over the past 20 years.

An enormous amount of time and money has been spent on public health initiatives in the past 20 years. While positive steps have been made on some fronts, rising obesity rates seem to have offset much of that progress.

The researchers from this study are putting pressure on the medical community and individuals to start putting more efforts into reversing the obesity epidemic.

They say that physicians need to focus more on prescribing lifestyle changes and physical exercise to patients rather than simply prescribing medication.

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