Obesity kills one in five white and black Americans

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. --  At age 62, Sharon Guess is trying to walk away from the killer of her mother and grandmother.

"My mother died at 62. My grandmother died at 65," said Sharon.

Both died from heart disease related to obesity. Sharon became very concerned about herself when she gained 50 pounds after cancer treatment.

"I said, 'Oh, my God, what am I gonna do?' I just felt like I wasn't going to live long if I didn't get it off," said Sharon.

Sharon is right to be worried about weight as a killer. A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds one in five black and white Americans die from obesity -- the heart disease, strokes, diabetes, kidney disease and other trouble that come with it.

Researchers looked at people 40 and older in order to exclude accidents and homicides which are leading killers of younger people.  They found black women have the highest death rate from obesity.  More than one in four die from it.

An outreach worker with the Black Health Care Coalition says to save lives, you have to change generational habits.

"We've been grown up to put like two cups of brown sugar in yams, a whole stick of butter, but that's only because that's what we were taught," said Doris Grant.

The coalition is teaching different habits, but Doris says change also has to happen in the community.

"And in our community, we really don't have a lot of places to walk, and then there's the safety factor there also," said Doris.

Sharon works out at the Calvary Community Wellness Center.  Exercise and eating smaller portions have resulted in weight loss of 60 pounds.

"I'm still working at it.  I won't give up," said Sharon.

She knows that nothing less than her life is at stake.

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