Despite efforts to get Americans to exercise and eat healthier, obesity rates in the United States are still rising, a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

Even amid major initiatives to raise awareness of the problem, obesity rates for adults in the U.S. have hit 37.7 percent, up from 34.9 percent in 2011 to 2012, the CDC reports.

The agency surveyed about 5,000 adults in the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is conducted every two years.

Age is a factor, the report authors say, since the older Americans get, the more likely they are to be classified as obese.

Compared to younger adults in their 20s and 30s who had a 32.3 percent obesity rate, the rate for middle-aged people in their 40s and 50s rose to 40.2 percent.

Race and ethnicity are also seen as factors, the researchers found. Just 11.7 percent of adult Asian Americans were obese, while African Americans struggle with a 48.1 percent obesity rate.

Latinos at 42.5 percent and whites at 34.5 percent fell between those two extremes.

Finally, gender also has an impact. Obesity rates for women were higher than for men, 38.3 percent as against 34.3 percent.

For the survey, obesity was determined using body mass index, with a BMI of at least 30 putting people in the obese classification, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, which published the report.

Obesity increases the risk of a number of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and certain kinds of cancer.

In addition, medical studies have indicated that people with a BMI of 40 or above may lose 6.5 to 13.7 years of life as a result of their obesity.

That makes the findings of the survey a source of considerable concern, experts say.

"Despite the great efforts of many groups to increase awareness of obesity as a disease, we are still struggling to really treat it as such," said Karl Nadolsky, an endocrinologist in Maryland.

Victory in that struggle won't come overnight, suggests Lisa Cimperman, a registered dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

"I think that we've been on this trajectory for at least 40 to 45 years, so it's going to take time to reverse it," Cimperman said. "It's like trying to stop an enormous vessel in the sea — to turn that thing around is going to take a lot of time."

It may be an uphill battle, Cimperman adds.

"Americans are quite tenacious in their ability to find new ways to eat poorly and new ways to exercise less."

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