Regional look at obesity

Sep. 25, 2013 @ 08:52 AM

New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that obesity is highest in the Southeast and Appalachia regions of America. More than 80 percent of counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia have high rates of obesity. The same problem was found in 75 percent of counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina.

The five counties with the highest obesity rate in America are Greene and Dallas counties in Alabama and Holmes, Humphreys, and Jefferson counties in Mississippi. Each of these counties reported obesity rates of 43 to 44 percent. The national adult obesity rate is 26 percent.

Many reasons were given for these high obesity rates in counties in the Southeast and Appalachia areas. Some areas in the country have cultures that promote eating a lot of unhealthy, fatty foods and shun exercise. Income and education can contribute to obesity, as less educated people may not understand the value of healthy living, and poorer people have less health care and are not as likely to join health clubs or buy healthier, more expensive food. Genetics can be a factor also.

Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity of any state in America at 21 percent. North Carolina, sadly, has the 14th highest rate at 29 percent.

The highest rate of obesity in North Carolina is Northampton County at 38 percent, followed closely by Edgecombe County at 37 percent. The lowest rate is Buncombe County at 21 percent, and the second lowest rate in the state is Orange County at 22 percent. Durham County is at 27.3 percent and Wake County is 26.5 percent.


More than 70 million American adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. High blood pressure exists when the systolic pressure is greater than 140, or when the diastolic pressure exceeds 90.

Exercise can be a very important way to control blood pressure. In fact, exercise can lower blood pressure as effectively as many medications. When regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is used it can lower blood pressure and heart rate. Reduction in these factors lowers what is called the rate-pressure product (RPP). RPP represents oxygen demand of the heart. A lower RPP means less oxygen is needed by the heart to do its work. Here is an example. RPP equals your systolic blood pressure times your heart rate. So if you have a systolic blood pressure of 135 and a resting heart rate of 85 beats per minute, your RPP is 11,475. After a good exercise program, let’s say you lowered your blood pressure to 120 and your resting heart rate to 65, your RPP is now 7,800. This would mean that you have reduced your heart oxygen demand by almost one-third. Your heart now doesn’t have to beat as often and can get more rest. Exercise has made your heart more efficient; it gets more rest and pumps out more blood with each contraction.


Now here is some news that may or may not surprise some of you. A study recently done at Ohio State University found that many college football offensive and defensive linemen are obese; 19 of the 29 linemen who play for Ohio State are over 25 percent fat, which is where obesity begins for men. This study is thought to be representative of most major college football programs. Just attend or watch a game and you will probably come to the same conclusion. You simply have to be a certain size to be a college lineman, many are close to or over 300 pounds. It’s almost a requirement for the position.

I have often written and talked about the fact that many sports are not good for a person’s health. This study is one example. Other examples are bodybuilders, who have to achieve extremely low levels of body fat to win contests, and this is not healthy. Some gymnasts and dancers have to acquire such a high level of flexibility that it can lead to loss of joint stability.

Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at