Excess weight impacts the health of NC women

Domino-effect as more NC women classified as obese or overweight than within the recommended weight range

Excess weight impacts the health of NC women click to enlarge Cardiovascular, diabetes, and obesity data and their implications are assessed in the 2014 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card.

More women in North Carolina fall into the overweight or obese category than within their recommended weight range according to the 2014 North Carolina Women's Health Report Card released May 12.

The report, published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Center for Women's Health Research (CWHR), utilized data from 2012 to assess the health and health care needs of the state’s 5+ million women.

The report found:

  • 42.5 percent of Caucasian women are at their recommended weight range, 30.7 percent are overweight, 24.7 percent are obese
  • 23.4 percent of African American women are at their recommended weight range, 29.9 percent are overweight, 44.6 percent are obese
  • 34.8 percent of other minority women are at their recommended weight range, 29.1 percent are overweight, 32.9 percent are obese

The estimate for underweight data was suppressed because it did not meet statistical reliability standards.

Individuals as classified as overweight or obese based on their body mass index (BMI). The Centers for Disease Control state that an adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; whereas, an adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

“Obesity plays an important role in the risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke,” said Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, a professor in the UNC Department of Nutrition.

North Carolina women are at 10 percent for rates of diabetes, 7.6 percent have a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), meaning heart attack, coronary heart disease or stroke.

“Statistically, the percent of women with CVD in [the state] does not really reflect the significance of the problem for women,” said Dr. Susan Girdler, professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Director for the UNC Psychiatry Stress and Health Research Program. “CVD is the number one killer of women, killing more women each year than all cancers combined.  Rates of CVD are substantially higher in older women and in women at higher risk for CVD -such as those with obesity.”

Women can work with their health care professional to accurately determine their BMI and provide recommendations for weight reduction or maintenance.

“Medical screenings and interventions continue to increase,” stated Gordon-Larsen. “Particular attention to lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on weight data.”

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends women under 65, perform 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Also do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week. Currently inactive adults should work up to the recommended guidelines. Women 65 and older should remain physically active and discuss a plan with their doctor or nurse to integrate aerobic and muscle strengthening activities into their lifestyle.

The US Department of Agriculture provides ChooseMyPlate.gov as a resource for learning about and tracking proper nutrition.

The 2014 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card is distributed to medical and public health professionals, policy makers, researchers and women's health advocacy groups throughout the state. Data was compiled from state health behavior surveys, vital statistics, disease reporting systems, and US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau reports.  Preventive health, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, perinatal health, mental health and substance abuse are the key measures examined. The biennial health report is the only one of its kind in North Carolina. A full copy the 2014 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card may be downloaded here.

The mission of CWHR is to improve women’s health through research by focusing on diseases, disorders and conditions that affect women only, women predominately, and/or women differently than men. Research efforts that require the most attention are identified through the collection and analysis of data for the report card. Current areas of research targeted by the Center include perinatal health, cancers affecting women, obesity, diabetes, women’s cardiovascular health, women’s mental health and substance abuse.