EDITORIAL: The high cost of obesity

What’s one of the greatest dangers facing America today? Is it the Islamic State? Is it our government’s deficit? Is it climate change or religious freedom bills or gay marriage? It’s an issue researchers at the National Center for Weight & Wellness at George Washington University said costs the country $305.1 billion annually. And according to the Fiscal Times in an analysis by NerdWallet, this threat cost states -- on average -- $2.9 billion last year. What could it be?

Look down at your midsection and more likely than not you’ll see the culprit: Obesity. According to Gallup, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country at 35.2 percent. West Virginia comes in second at 34.3 percent. (See the top 10 highest and lowest at gallup.com). Rounding out the top 10 are: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri (all have obesity rates over 30 percent). Before we all shout “Thank God for Mississippi,” let’s not gloat. As a nation we are growing -- and not in a good way. Our national obesity rate is higher than ever before at 27.7 percent. We are doing somewhat better in Georgia. In 2012, the state was ranked 37. In 2013, 33. In 2014, the ranking was 21 among the 50 states. Still, our obesity rate is north of 25 percent.

Why is all of this important? Carrying too much weight leads to a multitude of health complications, from diabetes to high blood pressure to increased incidents of strokes and heart attacks. Gallup’s “Well-Being Index” links rates of low obesity with higher rates of well being. Hawaii, has the lowest obesity rate (19), followed by Colorado with only 20.3 percent.

What do we have to do to lower our obesity numbers? Easier said than done. Adjust our diets, eat less and exercise more. We will feel better and live longer -- and according to a UC Davis study, reduce our public health cost by $92,000 a person over our lifetimes. Such a deal.