Roughly one out of every three adults living in Kentucky is obese. The Commonwealth, which is the eighth-worst state for obesity in the United States, also has the third highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17.
Kentucky’s adult obesity rate is currently 34 percent, up from 22 percent in 2000.
The ranking is from a state profile, which includes data on adult and childhood obesity, obesity-related health issues and policy actions Kentucky is taking to prevent and reduce obesity. According to the most recent data, adult obesity rates now exceed 25 percent in 48 states.
States with obesity rates worse than Kentucky’s include Tennessee, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Beth Cecil, manager of Community Wellness at Owensboro Health, said she thinks Kentucky has a high obesity rate because of the state’s culture — citing a level of inactivity as well as emotional eating.
“Many of the kids in our schools are not required to have physical education,” she said. “Also, eating and overeating is commonly used as a coping mechanism and we see this in adults and children. I think sometimes we fail to look at or assess someone’s underlying mental health when it comes to obesity.”
While Cecil said she thinks nutrition and fitness should be taught in school, she believes that often kids are somewhat at the mercy of their parents and the lifestyle habits of the family.
“Treating obesity in children is best done when using a family approach to increase activity and make healthier choices in foods and healthy lifestyle choices, such as meals prepared at home more often,” she said.
Cecil said locally, there are dietitians at the Owensboro Health Healthpark that provide nutrition counseling for children and their families.
She said treatment is just as multifactorial as the causes are — healthy eating, adequate physical activity and support of behavioral changes.
People who are obese, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Sleep apnea and breathing problems
Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
“People also have to want to change their lifestyle,” Cecil said. “Many people jump on the latest fad, but that really is not going to be effective long term. People have to understand that they have to make permanent lifestyle changes.”