As your BMI increases, so do your health care costs

Even if you're at a healthy weight, the cost of health care will increase as your waistline does, according to new research from Duke Medicine.

And if you're obese, these expenses may even double, the study found. The researchers reported that the costs associated with medical care and prescriptions increases gradually with each unit increase in body mass index (BMI). The trend was noticeable above a BMI of about 19, which is the lower range of a healthy BMI.

"Our findings suggest that excess fat is detrimental at any level," study author Truls Østbye, M.D., Ph.D., said in a news release.

Men pay more

The researchers measured costs associated with doctor's visits and medications, observing that, not surprisingly, rates of obesity-related diseases like heart disease and hypertension also grew with increases in BMI. A dozen or so other disease categories also were associated with rising BMI rates.

Men, the study found, experience a bigger financial burden when their BMIs increase. And the average annual health care costs for a person with a BMI of 19 was $2,368, which grew to $4,880 for a person with a BMI of 45 or higher.

"The fact that we see the combined costs of pharmacy and medical more than double for people with BMIs of 45 compared with those of 19 suggests that interventions on weight are warranted," said Marissa Stroo, a co-investigator on the study.

Workplace solutions

Because employers are shouldering much of the financial burden for unhealthy employees, the study suggests the workplace is an ideal setting for structuring exercise or weight-loss programs. The Affordable Care Act, the researchers hope, will help companies take advantage of incentives offered for promoting employee wellness.

"Employers should be interested in these findings because, directly or indirectly, they end up paying for a large portion of these health care costs," Østbye said.

Source: Duke Medicine

Image courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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