Saturday, May 29, 2010

Health Risks of Obesity

What are the health risks of obesity? It is now presumed that the rising rates of obesity will reverse the increases in life expectancies that we’ve seen lately. Children that are born in the year 2000 would be part of the first generation that doesn’t outlive the previous one. Obesity-related diseases are also costing the American tax-payers billions of dollars. Overweight people are 2 to 6 times more likely to develop hypertension, have a stroke, thrombosis and clots in the legs. Excess body fat can lead to impaired cardiac function. These are only some of the health risks of obesity.

Excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance and increase the likelihood of type 2 diabetes in both adults and children. Obesity can be a factor in the development of cancer, because of the eating patterns that get us to obesity (most people don’t get obese by eating fruits and vegetables) also increase the likelihood of developing some kind of cancer. Inactivity also increases the risk of cancer. Some estimates suggest that poor diet and exercise may account for up to a third of the cancer risk.

Excess body fat can lead to different types of cancer, most notably endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. Obese people are more likely to have degenerative joint disease. It makes it more likely to have sleep apnea, mechanical breathing constraints (particularly during exercise). It just takes more effort to work the chest wall if it has huge amounts of fat.

Obese people have more problems with anesthesia during surgery, as well as compromised wound healing. It also increases the likelihood of developing gallbladder disease.

A newly discovered consequence is fatty infiltration of the liver. This is known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Some estimates suggest that as the liver becomes infiltrated with fat, it causes hepatitis and that can lead to liver failure.

Psychological Burden

We’ve seen the physical risks of obesity. Obesity also has deep psychological effects: depression, being stigmatized by people, bullying and discrimination. This is really one of the least accepted forms of discriminations. We have made great advances in our culture: most of us accept that we can have different religious beliefs, or that we can have different ethnicity and still have the same rights. However, we are not sensitive to the individuals who are overweight.

In 2002, the cost of overweight in the US was estimated to be 92 billion dollars!

A Light of Hope

Losing weight can reduce the risks of all these diseases. Obese people that loose as little as 5% of their bodyweight can have improvement in blood pressure, insulin levels, glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides. You don’t have to lose 80 pounds to get good results. As little as 5% to 10% weight loss can help.

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