Obesity and Your Health

Obesity, the North American epidemic?

It is becoming common knowledge that as a people, North Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Perhaps it is most evident in our children. There were always a few heavy kids at school when I was growing up, but when I visit my daughter's public school now I am shocked at the number of obviously overweight young ones.

While everyone knows an obese person who lived to a ripe old age without any of the health problems commonly associated with excess fat, most independent health studies confirm that excess body fat brings with it many health risks. Studies are continuing but I can't imagine that any new and contradictory evidence of a health risk will become evident.

The various forms of heart condition, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, liver damage, gallstones and other maladies are all associated with obesity or being 'considerably overweight'.

But what is 'considerably overweight'?

There's no static, ideal weight for any given individual, though there are various factors that provide a healthy range. One measurement that is a good starting point is BMI (Body Mass Index). To calculate it, just divide your weight (in kg) by your height (in m) squared. The following table will give you a rough idea:

Under 18.5 = Underweight
Between 18.5 and 24.99 = Normal Weight
Between 25 and 29.99 = Overweight
Between 30 and 34.99 = Obese (Class 1)
Between 35 and 39.99 = Obese (Class 2)
40 and above = Extreme Obesity

If you fall in the lower end of the BMI scale, your health risks from obesity related disorders are minimal, or at least the same as most people. Those risks, though increase dramatically as you approach the high end of the scale.

For example, abdominal obesity (having large fat deposits around the stomach and abdomen) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance syndrome. For women, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more (40+ in men) is an indicator of abdominal obesity. Among other conditions, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high cholesterol are all common factors associated with that condition.

Narrowing of the arteries, atherosclerosis, contributes to the possibility of a clot which can cause a stroke. Excessive body fat is one factor in producing that condition. It also plays a part in increased blood pressure (hypertension).

Rapid weight gain, from 10-20 lbs for the average person, increases the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes. Genetic factors contribute, but weight gain plays a role, according to most studies. The risk of getting Type 2 diabetes is double that of an individual who has not had a weight gain, when all other factors are considered.

Liver disease, commonly associated with alcohol abuse, can also be caused by insulin resistance. That resistance is much more likely among those who are obese. There are many studies which have correlated BMI with the degree of liver damage. The higher the BMI, the greater the odds of liver trouble.

Gallstones are more likely to form in those who are obese, and may be correlated with a rapid rise in BMI. Sleep apnea (interruption of breathing during sleep) is another condition commonly linked to excess fat. Sadly, a good friend of mine who was always a little overweight, has recently gained even more body fat and must now wear a breathing device when he sleeps to control his sleep apnea.

In short, though no single study is definitive, and there are many genetic and other environmental elements, obesity is a substantial factor in health issues. Being overweight is not merely an issue of acceptable appearance, it's a health risk.

Though the solution to this obesity problem seems clear, (exercise and good nutrition), many people have a problem with getting started. Why not overcome obesity with your own inexpensive personal trainer.


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