We've all heard the warnings about obesity and its health risks, yet many of us keep gaining weight. According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults, or 35.7% are substantially obese. People who are obese have an abnormally high and unhealthy proportion of body fat.
This important public health issue is now epidemic. According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity in the late 1970s was 15%. By 2004, it had doubled and reached 32.5%.
An adult who is overweight has a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9. An adult who is obese has a BMI of 30.0 or more. (To find your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Divide that answer by your height in inches. Divide that answer by your height in inches, again. The resulting number is your BMI.)
You may already know that obesity is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and harmful cholesterol. Recent research has revealed 6 findings you may not know:
Researchers with the National Cancer Institute have determined that certain cancers of the breast (occurring after menopause), the lining of the uterus (endometrium), colon and rectum, and other cancers of the kidney, esophagus, pancreas, thyroid, and gallbladder, are also increased in obese individuals, and are strongly associated with obesity and physical inactivity.
Obesity has been linked to a rise in fatal heart attacks in young people. According to the American Heart Association, teenagers and young adults who are obese or have type 2 diabetes, show signs of damage to the arteries in the heart (early atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries) that may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke later in life. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes if your child is overweight, he or she is much more likely to become an overweight adult, which can cause a lifetime of very serious health concerns.
For those who are obese, daily life itself is harder, studies show. Simple tasks like carrying groceries, walking up stairs, kneeling, and stooping are more difficult for the obese. Sleep apnea, a condition in which you intermittently stop breathing when asleep, and is more prevalent among obese people, is often a cause of lethargy during the day. Sleep apnea is important because it predisposes people to heart attacks at night when asleep.
According to the CDC, obese people are also more likely to have chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Stroke, dyslipidemia (high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides), osteoarthritis, asthma, and gastroesophageal reflux are also more common among obese people.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that girls who weigh too much tend to develop breasts and pubic hair earlier than their peers, at age 8 or 9. Early puberty may put girls at risk for behavioral and emotional problems.
Doctors believe increases in childhood obesity have led to the sharp, unprecedented increase in type 2 diabetes among kids. In type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to make enough insulin or use insulin effectively. Experts believe that in the next 10 years, more children will have type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. In the past, type 2 diabetes was almost unheard of in children. In the past, almost all children with diabetes suffered from type 1 diabetes, but now, type 2 diabetes is being seen commonly in obese children.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says most children with type 2 diabetes are obese. The disease usually turns up in middle to late puberty. Children who get little exercise, eat too much, and have a family history of diabetes are at highest risk. Type 2 diabetes in children markedly increases their risk of heart disease as they age.
Although studies have linked obesity and diabetes to an increased risk for dementia and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the National Institutes of Health says that researchers still aren’t sure whether these conditions actually cause them.