In the United States, more than 72 million Americans are obese. Consider that two-thirds of adult-onset diabetes is directly associated with obesity, Add to that, obesity is associated with more than 40 other medical problems, including cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, hypertension, and orthopedic problems. The symptoms of these obesity related illnesses can be treated with medications to some extent, but oftentimes the root problem of obesity remains under treated. In fact, obesity is harder to treat than the diseases and health conditions it causes.
Let’s take a top-line on 10 health conditions that are linked to obesity.
Obesity Related Illnesses affect Adults and Children
If you are obese, you put yourself at risk for diabetes because you become insulin resistant. No matter how hard your pancreas tries to put out insulin and bring down your blood sugar, it can’t put out enough because you become resistant to the effect of insulin. Diabetes affects your pancreas, your heart, and your circulation.
Postmenopausal women who gain more than sixty pounds in adulthood are three times more likely to get the most severe types of breast cancer compared to peers who gain twenty pounds or less. The greater the weight gain the greater the risk for cancer. Women who are obese at the time of their diagnoses are five times more likely to die even if they are diagnosed while in the early stages.
A suspicion that first surfaced around 2005 is now gaining even more momentum: Alzheimer’s disease might be Type 3 diabetes. For all of you junk food addicts out there, know that unhealthy eating habits lead to obesity and obesity leads to diabetes. An ever increasing body of evidence points toward Type 3 diabetes being Alzheimer’s disease.
Obesity is a risk factor for blood clots in deep veins and for pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is a clot in the blood vessels of the lungs that can lead to sudden death. Obesity also increases the risk for chronic vein disease, a damage to the vein valves that can be caused by blood clots. This damage results in an inability to pump enough blood back to the heart, causing blood to pool in the legs.
People who are obese in middle age and have other metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure can accelerate cognitive decline. The results of a study involving 6401 participants who were monitored over a ten year period showed subjects who were obese and had two or more risk factors suffered cognitive decline that was 22.5% faster than normal weight participants.
Women normally have a 1 in 88 chance of giving birth to an autistic child, but a recently published study suggest that women who are obese during pregnancy increased the possibility to 1 in 53. While the study shows that women who are obese during pregnancy have a 67% greater chance of giving birth to an autistic child than women who are not obese during pregnancy, this does not qualify as cause.
Obesity can cause arthritis, creating mobility issues that interfere with exercise and weight loss. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that obese adults who have arthritis are 44% more likely to be physically inactive than obese people who do not have the disease. The discomfort caused by arthritis has been cited as an interfering with physical activity.
8. Obesity and High Blood Pressure
An astonishing two-thirds of people who meet the criteria for obesity are at risk for hypertension. Obesity effects a number of hormone levels in the body including the system that is responsible for regulating the blood volume of the body. Along with the sympathetic nervous system, it controls the levels of sodium and water retention. When obesity interrupts these systems, hypertension can result.
9. Childhood Obesity and Stroke
Obesity among children is increasing risk factors for obesity related disease such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Doctors are reporting seeing changes in heart and artery structures in children that normally do not occur until adulthood. The result of all this is a higher risk for heart disease and stroke among children. In addition, the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference of 2011 reported a notable increase for stroke in children ages five to fourteen.
The lower back or lumbar region is the area most vulnerable to the effects of obesity. Obesity contributes to symptoms associated with the obesity related diseases of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis. While it is true that the normal aging process contributes to back pain, it is equally true that if a person is obese she should anticipate back pain.
Hope for Better Health
The American Medical Association‘s House of Delegates recently joined other influential groups, including the National Institutes of Health, the Social Security Administration and Medicare, in declaring obesity a disease. Hopefully this will greatly improve patient access to proven treatments for weight related illnesses.
While diet and exercise are always the best starting points for weight loss, the success rates are low. Increased health insurance approvals for behavioral therapy for weight loss, weight loss drugs, and bariatric surgery can reduce obesity in America and improve health outcomes. Additionally, focused programs fighting childhood obesity in our schools and communities can provide education and access to better nutrition and healthy eating.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: North Country Public Radio