Obesity

Obesity, a nationwide epidemic, occurs when excess fat accumulates on the body, so much so that it can have detrimental health effects. It is a common problem that arises due to the high caloric, sugar and carbohydrate intake that is common in Western diets.

The effects that arise from obesity are increased chances of mortality, resulting from factors such as type II diabetes, heart disease and other major diseases. Research indicates that those who suffer from obesity may reduce their lifespan by three to seven years, with severe obesity reducing life expectancy by as much as 10 years.

Some quick facts on obesity:

    • Obese women are more likely to give birth to asthmatic babies, according to a recent study presented to the American Thoracic Society
    • Another study by the ATS, says that a high waist circumference is associated with a decreased ability for the lungs to function fully, regardless of a history with smoking, body mass index, and other complicating factors.
    • According to the Center for Disease Control, about 33.9 percent of American citizens are obese with roughly 18 percent of American adolescents facing obesity.
    • About 61 percent of overweight children who are five to 10 year olds are already at risk for heart disease.
    • Health costs for obesity-related health problems for 2003 alone were around $75 billion.
    • Every year, nearly 300,000 deaths are caused by obesity-related illnesses.

Weight loss is integral to combating the detrimental effects of obesity.

Consider these facts as well:
  • For those who are overweight or obese, a modest loss of five to 15 percent in one’s total body weight can help to reduce the chances of attaining certain diseases, especially heart disease.
  • Weight loss contributes to lower blood pressure, lower levels of blood sugar, and more normal levels of cholesterol, all of which are important to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Anyone with a body mass index that is above the normal and healthy weight range can benefit from losing weight, especially if that person shows signs of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ill effects of smoking, diabetes, lives a sedentary lifestyle, and even if he or she has a genetic history of heart disease.

As seen from the above information, obesity is by no means a mere aesthetic issue; it also comes with numerous effects to one’s health that can make one’s life expectancy much less than what it could be.

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

One of the possible results of obesity or a higher fat content could be increased insulin resistance.

Insulin is an important hormone that is integral to regulating the sugar in the blood in order for it to be properly stored as energy. However, increased body fat can lead to an increase in cytoki, chemicals which are similar to hormones. This can have the detrimental effect of causing the cells that secrete them to become resistant to insulin. A direct result of this insulin resistance by the fat tissue is for the pancreas to secrete more insulin into the blood stream. This duel problem of increased insulin resistance due to excess fat tissue, along with higher insulin in the blood stream, can mean that cells are desensitized to both insulin and sugar, so much so that there is an excess of both within the blood stream.

According to a report by the Surgeon General:

  •  Over 80 percent of diabetic people are either overweight or obese.
  • A weight gain of as little as 11 to 18 pounds doubles a person’s risk of attaining type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes, like obesity, increases the risk for various problems such as hypertension or high blood pressure, meaning more work for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. It also increases the chance of a stroke, which is an interruption of the blood flow to the brain that can cause severe damage to brain cells. Heart disease is a blanket term for a number of maladies that affect the heart, including coronary issues, cardiovascular problems and heart failure. Thus, it is important to keep obesity in check because it can lead to diabetes mellitus type 2, which itself opens the floodgates to other diseases and physical ailments.

Stroke

A stroke is another risk when one is obese. It was formerly common for those above the age of 60, yet now it is becoming increasingly common in younger generations, especially those with diabetes. In fact, large-8 columns of people with diabetes will pass away due to a stroke or heart disease. A stroke is when there is a disturbance to the blood flow to the brain that results in damage to brain cells. The ability for limbs to move, for speech or, in some cases, sight are among the more minor outcomes of stroke, although death is quite common as well. While obesity isn’t a direct cause of a stroke, it certainly increases the risk of having one.

According to the American Heart Association:

  • Those suffering from obesity are at an increased risk of suffering from difficulties breathing particularly during sleep. This is known as sleep apnea, and can further lead to irregular heart rhythms, followed by higher blood pressure, which may lead to stroke.
  • An increase in body fat, well above the average body mass index (BMI) number can lead to issues with blood flow along with an increased risk of blockage, both of which can promote stroke.
  • Those who are overweight or obese sometimes have an amplification of the left sides of their hearts, formally called left ventricular hypertrophy, which is caused by higher-than-average blood pressure and increased heart strain. Left ventricular hypertrophy, along with the other obesity-related problems, often predates stroke in both children and adults.
  • Twenty percent of overweight individuals have a condition known as Metabolic Syndrome X.  This is a cluster of issues that includes high blood pressure as well as an increased likelihood of diabetes and stroke.

High Blood Pressure

Another major problem that is related to the above two is that of high blood pressure or hypertension. This is essentially when the heart must work harder in order to circulate blood throughout the body. Obese people are at an increased risk of high blood pressure due an increase in their fatty tissues. These risks are more pronounced in people who gain weight primarily in their abdominal region.

According to the Framingham Heart Study:

  • Excess body weight accounted for 25 percent of hypertension in men and 28 percent in women.
  • There are 58 million to 65 million adults who have hypertension in the United States, and obese people are more at risk than those with average BMI rates.

High blood pressure is often caused by obesity along with high sodium intake, but furthermore, high blood pressure leads to plenty of other health-related problems. Hypertension often also results in an increased amount of stress in one’s life.

Getting Help

The effects of obesity are all interrelated.

Diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes, along with all the other negative effects of obesity are all interconnected. When one challenges oneself to eat healthier and exercise in an effort to develop good habits, it can lead to a lessening of these ill effects.

For some people, dedicated lifestyle changes and support from family and friends are all that’s necessary to recover from a life of obesity. Others, particularly those who suffer from obesity-related eating disorders like food bingeing or overeating, may benefit from an addiction treatment program. Eating addictions are just as serious and dangerous as other addictions, so it’s important to get help for yourself or the one you love right away.

In some cases, your loved one may be unwilling to see that they have a problem. You may need to enlist the help of a professional interventionist who can help you stage an intervention to help your loved one.

While the changes required to lose weight are not easy, when one measures them alongside the ill effects of diabetes, hypertension and stroke, it certainly is a worthwhile compromise.

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