Friday, October 28, 2011

Are You Putting Yourself at Risk? by Wolf Krammel

This rise in obesity should be taken as seriously as any infectious disease epidemic. Overweight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S., second only to tobacco related deaths.

Clearly, many Americans are struggling to maintain a healthy body weight, which is putting them face to face with serious psychological, emotional, and physical health problems. Beyond the psychological and emotional hardships that overweight adults and children experience, is the physical toll that excessive weight takes on the body. Research studies indicate that a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 27 is directly correlated with increased incidence of disease and death. (See the next section to determine your BMI). Sadly, on average, people with obesity do not live as long as non-obese people. Obesity is the leading cause of preventable death in this country. You should be encouraged by the word "preventable" in the previous statement because even small reductions in weight can reduce your risk of early death from obesity.

Some of the medical problems associated with obesity that you should know about include heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, gall stones, cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Heart disease is one of the top risk factors associated with obesity. Research demonstrates that the risk of heart disease is doubled in people with moderate obesity compared to normal weight individuals. Fortunately, weight reduction reverses the cardiovascular disease process and lessens the associated risk factors.

Increased body fat, especially in the abdominal area puts pressure on the chest wall thereby preventing the lungs from holding the maximum volume of air required for efficient respiration. Inefficient respiration can be damaging to the body and cause even more problems for individuals who already have some form or respiratory or lung disease.

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels, which are caused by decreased insulin production and/or decreased sensitivity to insulin. Initial symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and frequent urination. The long-term complications related to untreated diabetes include eye degeneration, neurological disturbances and heart disease. Clearly, excessive weight and lack of exercise are closely associated with the development of diabetes, as evidenced by the fact that ninety percent of adults with adult-onset diabetes are overweight or obese. Weight loss and exercise reduce fasting blood sugar levels, thereby decreasing the risk of diabetes-related eye, heart, and neurological problems.

If you are female, middle-aged, overweight, and eat a high-fat, low-fiber diet, your chance of developing gallstones is high.

Although it is not yet known if obesity causes cancer, cancer rates are higher among people with obesity. In addition, the mortality rates for colorectal and prostate cancer is higher among obese men than normal weight men. Likewise, obese women have higher rates of death from endometrial, breast, ovarian, and gallbladder cancer than their non-obese counterparts. As is the case with heart disease and obesity, it appears that the diet and lifestyle choices that promote obesity can increase your risk for cancer.

Excess body weight puts strain on the skeletal structure of the body, and many overweight people experience chronic pain in the muscles, bones, and joints. For example, increased abdominal fat can cause lower back pain and poor posture.

Overweight and obese people also have altered hormone levels. In men, obesity results in decreased testosterone levels, which can cause their sex drive to plummet. Conversely, obese women have increased estrogen levels, due to the fact that fat cells produce estrogen. Elevated estrogen levels increases the risk for breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and other hormone-dependent diseases.

As you can see, being overweight takes a tremendous toll on your health. However, it is important to remember that even a small reduction in weight can greatly decrease your chances of developing the obesity-related diseases.