Many Nevadans need to lose weight or face the prospect of numerous health risks and shorter life spans, state lawmakers were told Monday.
State Health Officer Bradford Lee told the Legislative Subcommittee Studying the Impacts of Obesity that more than half of Nevadans are overweight or obese - prompting panel member Garn Mabey, a Las Vegas doctor, to say, "We eat too much. We put on the extra calories. We keep eating and eating."
Dr. Ihsan Azzam of the state Bureau of Community Health told the subcommittee that Nevada's rate of overweight or obese persons grew 12.9 percent between 1992 and 2001. That compares with the national rate of 9.3 percent.
Azzam said people who are overweight run the risk of "more chronic disorders and worse physical health related to quality of life than smoking or problem drinking." He added the effects of obesity for a 20-year-old can be equivalent to aging as much as 30 years.
Lee said weight problems are particularly severe among the nation's young, with three times as many overweight adolescents today compared with the total in 1980.
Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, the subcommittee chairwoman, said physical activity is considered a key factor in helping people deal with problems such as depression.
Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, pointed to a lack of exercise in the schools, saying, "The kids rush to eat or go to a fast food place."
Cegavske said the subcommittee should come up with recommendations for the state's school districts, saying, "They are not doing it themselves. What they're teaching in the classroom doesn't apply in the lunchroom."
Lee presented figures to show that in recent years about 53 percent of all Las Vegas-area residents were considered overweight or obese. In the Reno area the figure was 49 percent, and in rural Nevada the figure was 55 percent. By gender, nearly 59 percent of women had normal weight compared with 37 percent for men.