The Obesity Epidemic
We are in a worldwide crisis, but it is a crisis that we choose to overlook. No one wants to accept the responsibility because it is an ugly word. Obesity is a word that brings about feelings of shame, diminished self-worth, and often anger. But we cannot ignore the crisis anymore. Obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and over 69 percent of adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Forty-two million children under the age of five are overweight or obese.
Obesity is defined as excessive fat accumulation which can impair your health. The World Health Organization defines obesity as a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30.
What Is Causing Obesity?
In my specialty, Ear, Nose and Throat, I commonly see patients who believe that they have a condition called hypothyroidism (under active thyroid) that is responsible for their weight gain but usually the thyroid labs are normal. This leaves them wondering why they are gaining weight.
Next, they immediately want to see a gynecologist because they believe menopause is the second most likely cause of their weight gain. The implications of poor diet or sedentary lifestyle are not often considered.
The sleep apnea patients want to have surgery to “cure” their sleep apnea so that they don’t have to wear their CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine every night. They are shocked that I can’t guarantee a cure with a BMI of over 40.
Americans need to take an honest inventory of diet and exercise routines to accept responsibility for their lifestyle choices. The American diet consists of highly processed and sugary foods. Obesity can be reduced by increasingly replacing these foods with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Fats found in fried foods and oils should be replaced with healthy fats. Regular physical activity of a minimum of 150 minutes per week should be part of the required routine. Obesity is preventable.
Health Risks of Obesity
Advertising is largely to blame. We all see commercials to “grab a Coke and a smile” or “fight your hunger with a Snickers”. There are never any sexy television commercials advertising broccoli, carrots, or asparagus!
The health risks of obesity include the following:
- Coronary Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Abnormal Blood Fats – high levels of triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
- Metabolic Syndrome – a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.
- Sleep Apnea
- Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS) – breathing disorder that affects some obese people. In OHS, poor breathing results in too much carbon dioxide (hypoventilation) and too little oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia).
- Reproductive Problems
Our country’s health care burden would be significantly decreased if our nation started being more focused on preventing disease rather than treating it. “There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.” Arlen Spector