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Nearly three-quarters of Ontario adults are obese or overweight

Nearly three-quarters of adults in Ontario are overweight or obese and have a strong occurrence of high blood pressure, according to new research that adds to the evidence linking weight and heath.

Ottawa researchers found that about one in four adults were obese and almost half of them overweight, with high blood pressure affecting one-third of both obese men and women.

The findings come a day after the Canadian Diabetes Association indicated that the prevalence of diabetes had risen sharply over the past 10 years and, if action isn't taken, it could cost Ontario $7-billion by 2020.

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Frans Leenen, lead author of the study from Ottawa, said Thursday that a similar price tag could be attached to high blood pressure. Overweight adults are often ignored because they have become the norm in society, but Dr. Leenen said this will burden the health-care system.

"Some changes are happening of course … but it will probably have to be a little more intense and a little bit faster," said Dr. Leenen, a professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa and director of the hypertension unit at the university's Heart Institute.

The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, examined more than 2,500 Ontarians between the ages of 20 and 79. The researchers measured weight and height to calculate BMI (an approximation of body fat), and they assessed blood pressure.

They found that only 14 per cent of men with a normal BMI had high blood pressure, compared with 19 per cent of those who were overweight and 36 per cent who were obese. The figures were similar among women, and Dr. Leenen said the pattern is likely comparable across Canada.

"More strategies are needed to deal with the overweight-obesity epidemic," he said.

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Education Reporter

Caroline Alphonso is an education reporter for The Globe and Mail. More

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