Facts About Obesity

Being overweight and dealing with obesity are complex situations and often misunderstood conditions that affect over 97 million Americans. Every American is at risk for developing obesity-related health conditions because of the excess fat they are carrying around.

When an individual’s weight increases and they are at risk of developing obesity-related diseases or co-morbidities, that individual is regarded as morbidly obese. Sometimes morbid obesity is also called clinically severe obesity and denotes an individual who is around 100 lbs overweight or who has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more. Along with the physical consequences of this chronic disease, obese individuals are frequently subjected to unfair treatment and discrimination, resulting in emotional scarring that may take years to resolve even after weight loss.

Cause of Obesity

The underlying cause of obesity is complex, and no single factor has been identified that explains why more than one-third of the adult population is overweight or obese. The popular explanation that obesity is a result of overeating and lack of will power is not supported by scientific evidence.

Genetics: As with many physical traits, obesity has a clear heredity component and tends to run in families, even when the individual members of the family to do not live together or share similar lifestyles. Research has also demonstrated that we each have several genes that determine weight, just as we have genes that determine eye and hair color.

Environment: While genetics may predispose us to obesity, factors such as poor diet and reduced activity, which are becoming typical in modern society, make weight control an even greater challenge. Because our weight is so closely linked with the way we live, weight loss success usually requires a significant change in lifestyle and behavior.

Metabolism: All of us are familiar with the theory that burning more calories than we ingest results in weight loss, while burning fewer calories causes us to build up fat and gain weight. While the principle is true, it does not take into account that because of variations in metabolism, some people gain weight while others do not, even when they eat the same diet. It is believed that our bodies regulate metabolism to maintain our weight within a preset range. Change to this so-called “set point” is extremely difficult.

Medical Conditions: A variety of emotional and physical conditions are associated with weight gain, as are medications that may be prescribed to treat some medical conditions.

Threats to your Health from Obesity

Ultimately, the risk that concerns most of us when we consider obesity is a shortened life span. While the risk of death is higher in the obese population, the road to an early death is not necessarily a short one. Along the way, there are a variety of obesity-related health issues that can seriously affect quality of life and cause unnecessary suffering.

Type 2 Diabetes: Resistance to the blood sugar-regulating hormone insulin is a potential consequence of obesity. While not all obese people develop diabetes, those that do are at risk for long-term complications involving the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood.

Heart disease: Increased body weight makes it more difficult for your heart to work efficiently. Vascular changes can increase blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack, kidney damage, and stroke.

Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints: Knee, hip, ankle, and spinal column joints subjected to the strain of excess weight frequently show signs of premature wear and tear. Obese individuals often suffer from chronic pain and immobility.

Sleep apnea: Fat accumulations in the neck and throat are known to cause intermittent blockage of the windpipe while obese individuals sleep. The resulting sleep disruption often causes headaches and daytime drowsiness.

Gastroesophageal reflux: The symptoms of heartburn that most of us are familiar with are a common experience in obese individuals because of the increased abdominal pressure. Stomach acid forced through the valve at the top of the stomach causes irritation of the esophagus and back of the throat and can lead to more serious complications such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, ulceration, strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, and, in rare cases, cancer.

Depression: Emotional issues related to obesity are common as people attempt to deal with self-image, negative self emotion and the constant disapproval of family, friends, and even strangers.

Pregnancy and Infertility: Several research studies have demonstrated that fertility in both males and females is affected by weight. Menstrual irregularity, erectile dysfunction, and intimacy issues all contribute to reproductive health issues in obese people.

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