CDC: Georgia adult obesity rate above U.S. average — and keeps rising

State’s rate reached 32.5% last year, up from 31.6% in 2017

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The adult obesity rate in Georgia keeps inching higher, according a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The estimated rate in 2018 was 32.5%, up from 31.6% the year before. It has ticked upward every year since 2011, when it was 28%, based on the data, which relies on self-reporting.

Georgia continues to be above the national average, which was 30.9% last year. But several states are even higher — including nine with rates at or above 35%.

Obesity rates ranged from 23% in Colorado to 39.5% in Mississippi and West Virginia.

The annual countrywide report is based on telephone surveys by the CDC and state health departments. The latest report looks at obesity rates from 2011 to 2018.

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People walk the Eastside Beltline trail in Atlanta. Walking even 10 minutes a day can be life-changing. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)

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Other findings in the report:

— Georgia and 28 other states had an obesity rate of 35% or higher among non-Hispanic black adults.

— Obesity rates decreased with higher levels of education. Adults without a high school degree or equivalent had the highest obesity rate of 35%. For college graduates, the obesity rate was 24.7%.

— Young adults were half as likely to be obese as middle-aged adults. Adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had the lowest obesity rate, at 18.1%.

Obese adults are at increased risk for many serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Obesity-related health care costs in the United States add up to more than $147 billion a year, according to the CDC.

Atlanta placed 22nd in a recent fitness ranking of the largest 100 U.S. cities. The analysis was released in June by the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem Inc., an Indianapolis-based health care company.

The 2019 American Fitness Index ranked cities on dozens of health factors such as aerobic activity, smoking, obesity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

There is still a lot of room for improvement. For example, about 13% of Atlanta residents smoke, twice that of Arlington, Va., residents. Only a third of Atlanta residents eat two or more servings of fruit a day.

Dr. Jonathan Kim, chief of sports cardiology at Emory University, said in an interview earlier this year that Atlanta has some inherent challenges for supporting healthy lifestyles. A lack of public transportation and a heavy dependence on cars pose impediments, and pockets of the city such as downtown aren't pedestrian friendly, he said.

But Kim, who is also head team cardiologist for the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves, sees some reasons for optimism. He’s particularly encouraged by plans for transit expansion in Atlanta.

Moving the needle of obesity, he said, can happen, one step at a time. Walking as little as 10 minutes a day can have life-changing health benefits, he said. Another tip: Take the stairs whenever possible.