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Poll: Most Americans older than 25 are overweight

Poll: Most Americans older than 25 are overweight

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A majority of Americans older than 25 are overweight, and the number is climbing, according to a Harris Poll released Tuesday.

On a healthier note, however, surveyors found that fewer adults are smoking and many more are routinely using seat belts.

Poll results show that 80 percent of people older than 25 are overweight based on the body mass index (BMI), a national guideline computed through a combination of weight and height. That figure has risen from 71 percent in 1995, 64 percent in 1990 and 58 percent in 1983.

Thirty-three percent of adults are 20 percent overweight -- more than double the number in 1983 -- when the figure was 15 percent. Results showed that 16 percent of U.S. adults in 1990 were 20 percent overweight and 22 percent in 1995 were 20 percent overweight.

Surveyors interviewed 1,011 Americans 18 and older between January 16 and 21.

Obesity risk factors:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Gallbladder diseases
  • Asthma
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Depression
  • Complications in pregnancy
  • Sleep apnea
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A BMI of under 25 is considered normal, which 25 to 29.9 is deemed overweight and 30 and more is obese. For example, a 5-foot-7 person weighing 140 pounds would have a BMI of about 22, while one weighing 180 pounds would have a BMI of more than 28. The BMI is most easily found using a chart or computer program.

The poll echoes a recent report issued by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, who said obesity is reaching "epidemic proportions" in the nation and could soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.

According to Satcher, the conditions of being overweight or obese cause as many as 300,000 premature deaths each year.

Sixty percent of the people surveyed in the Harris Poll said they would like to lose weight, including 72 percent of those who are overweight. Fifty-eight percent of adults said they have made a serious attempt to lose weight. Among those are 65 percent who are overweight.

More than half of those surveyed -- 57 percent -- who said they have successfully lost weight also said they had managed to stay at more or less the same weight.

"If Americans were to make the effort to manage their weight using a variety of options, including better nutrition, more exercise, approved medications or even surgical approaches, we would be rewarded with significantly better health," said a statement issued by Dr. Louis Aronne, an authority on obesity at Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York.

The survey also found that the proportion of Americans who smoke is down to 23 percent -- a modest decline of 7 percentage points since 1983 and 3 percentage points since 1990.

Eighty-one percent of adults surveyed said they use seat belts in the front seat of a vehicle, a large increase over those who said so in 1983 -- 19 percent. In the 1980s, states passed laws mandating seat belt use. The use rose to 65 percent in 1990 and 73 percent in 1995.

According to the Harris Poll, the survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult U.S. population had been polled.


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