Obesity rates – New Jersey is 16th best
At least 25 percent of New Jersey adults are considered obese, according to the latest rankings from Gallup and Healthways. Meanwhile, the nation's obesity rate is at its highest point, 27.7 percent, since tracking began in 2008.
New Jersey's obesity rate for 2014 ranked in the better half of the country, coming in 16th among the states in the Well-Being Index. That's one spot better than the year prior, but much worse than the Garden State's rankings in 2012 and 2013.
Mississippi reported the highest incidence of obesity, at 35.2 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii was the only state with a rate less than one in five.
Dr. Robert Pedowitz with Family Practice of CentraState in Freehold said obesity can be caused by genetics, medication or poor choices, but in any case, it's the resulting health conditions that are most concerning.
"If left untreated, it may lead to more serious conditions that can lead to significant morbidity and mortality," he said.
The report pointed to obesity as a major contributor to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and other risk factors.
Citing patients who can't control the urge to eat, Pedowitz said overconsumption is an addiction. Weight loss surgery, though, is considered a last-resort solution.
Barbara Potashkin, a nutritionist in Scotch Plains, said her office focuses on changing habits and keeping the weight off. Exercise is a major part of all the programs they incorporate.
"We're able to bring down blood pressures, cholesterols," Potashkin said.
The latest obesity rate includes adults 18 and older, but Potashkin said her office also deals with plenty of obese children. According to Potashkin, schools have done a better job with the meals they provide, but there's still room for progress.
Parents can play a major role as well.
"If the family doesn't change their habits, the kid is not going to have a chance," she said.
The Well-Being Index is based on random telephone interviews of more than 176,000 adults across the United States. Americans with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher are classified as obese.