Obesity is becoming a worldwide epidemic and is certainly a problem in the U.S., where over 70% of all people are overweight or obese, including one-third of all children. This epidemic has increased in the past few decades due in part to changes in lifestyles.
Being categorized as obese means an individual has an unhealthy proportion of body fat. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to determine whether a person 20 years old and older is at an average weight, overweight, underweight or obese. A BMI calculator for adults is available through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. BMI charts for children based on growth is available from the Centers for Disease Control.
This epidemic is growing out of control. Obesity is linked to a broad range of diseases and conditions. Here is a look at just a handful of the reasons it’s important to live a healthy lifestyle.
In 2007, it was estimated that 34,000 new cases of cancer in men and 50,500 new cancer cases in women were directly related to obesity. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be around 500,000 new cases of cancer due to obesity in 2030. Those who are obese are at a higher risk of developing esophagus, breast, endometrium, colon, rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid and gallbladder cancers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology states that soon obesity will overtake tobacco as the number one most preventable cause of cancer.
Scientists believe that obesity and cancer are linked due to excess fat tissue that produces more estrogen in the body than before. This excess estrogen is closely related to breast cancer. The hormone leptin, which promotes cell growth, is more abundant in those who are obese and can lead to a faster development of tumors. Obesity is also linked to inflammation, which is associated with higher cancer risks. Endometrial cancer, or cancer of the uterus, has been related to weight gain during female adulthood. A combination of BMI and waist circumference can increase a man’s risk of colorectal cancer.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Cancer Center.
Obesity increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. The American Heart Association states that obesity can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, lower “good” LDL cholesterol, increase blood pressure and increase the chances of a heart attack. Body fat affects the body’s metabolism, which develops a cycle of weight gain. Obesity in children has also shown an increase in high blood pressure and high cholesterol at ages much younger than ever before. Some doctors in the U.S. are even prescribing cholesterol-lowering medication to children.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Cardiology and Heart Care Services.
Almost 13 million children in the U.S. are obese. The term “children” encompasses anyone between the ages of two and 19. Obese children are more likely to have pre-diabetes signs than other children who are at a healthy weight. These children also have a greater risk for bone and joint issues, as their growing bodies can’t handle the excess weight gain. They suffer from social and psychological issues like poor self-esteem, as well. Sleep apnea is also a problem in obese children and adolescents. When obese children grow into obese adults, they have an even higher risk of developing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Children’s Health Specialists.
Obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes and has been shown to induce diabetes. Around 90% of all diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes. This kind of diabetes is strongly correlated with obesity. Extra body fat makes it harder for the body to control blood sugar with insulin. The incidence of diabetes spiked in the 1990s and is expected to rise along with weight gain in the U.S.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Diabetes Treatment Team.
Asthma is common in obese people, but very hard to treat. A condition called obesity hypoventilation syndrome also happens in those who are overweight. It occurs due to weak breathing in obese people causing a low amount of oxygen, and a high level of carbon dioxide, to be present in the blood. The excess weight against an obese person’s chest makes it harder for them to breathe, which means the blood can’t pick up enough oxygen in the lungs. This, in turn, makes it more difficult to breathe quickly or deeply.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Lung Health Services.
Sadness, anxiety and stress can lead people to eat in excess or develop eating disorders. Studies show that major depression is found in 37% of obese women, according to the American Psychological Association. They also cite that there is a legitimate relationship between BMI and thoughts of suicide. As BMI rises, so do troubling thoughts.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Mental Health Services.
Obesity can lead to reproductive problems for both men and women. Statistically, women who see doctors for infertility problems are overweight or obese. Obese women are also more likely to develop polycystic ovary syndrome that can cause menstrual and pregnancy abnormalities. Obese men are at a higher risk for erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive and poor semen quality due to reduced testosterone.
Learn more about St. Luke’s Family Medicine and Women’s Health Services.
Globally, there are 400 million adults that are obese and one billion who are overweight. There are also 17.6 million overweight children. Not only does obesity reduce life expectancy, it also increases the risk of developing the conditions above, plus many more. Stop the epidemic. Learn more about ways St. Luke’s can support you with wellness and living healthier.