The Health Effects Of Obesity
Two leading causes of death and disability among adults are heart disease and stroke. People who are overweight are more likely to have elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, which is a major risk factor for both stroke and chronic congestive heart failure. Also, high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats) can lead to heart disease. Often, raised levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are linked to being overweight. Obesity can also lead to angina (chest pain) from decreased oxygen to the heart. Fortunately, the loss of a relatively small amount of weight can make a dramatic difference. A reduction of 10% of body weight can decrease the chances of heart disease in obese individuals.
Another major disease, affecting millions of people, that is linked to obesity is diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a disease caused by an inability of the body to metabolise carbohydrates and control blood sugar levels. Some people, having type I diabetes mellitus, are born with the disease. Type II, or non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, is acquired over time, but can be serious nonetheless. Both kinds of diabetes are a major cause of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and early death. People who are obese are much more likely to develop type II diabetes.
Several kinds of cancer have been linked to obesity and excess body fat. Obese males are at greater risk of developing colon cancer, rectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Women who are obese are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Exact mechanisms are, by and large, unknown. For some types of cancer, it is not known whether the increase in risk is due to obesity itself or a high fat, high calorie diet.
Other serious diseases, like sleep apnea, gout, and osteoarthritis are also linked to obesity. Sleep apnea is characterized by short periods of time where breathing stops during sleep. The risk for sleep apnea increases with increasing body weight. Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative joint disorder that has been called "wear and tear" arthritis since it is caused by physical stress on joints. It most often affects knees, hips, and lower back vertebrae. Extra weight can place pressure on these joints, accelerating the wearing away of the cartilage that normally protects them. Gout is a joint disease, but it is caused by high levels of uric acid. Uric acid can form crystal deposits in the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Gout is more common in obese people.
All of the diseases listed above become exaggerated in people who display morbid obesity. Morbid obesity is defined as a body weight that is twice the ideal value. Morbidly obese individuals are at greater risk of developing serious health problems. Fortunately, obesity can be managed and a reduction in weight can produce reductions in associated disease. Long-term changes in eating habits and physical activity are listed as the best ways to lose weight and keep it off over time.
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