Six Facts on Obesity
We've all heard warnings, yet many of us keep gaining weight. Sixty-five percent of American adults are overweight or obese, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People who are obese have an abnormally high and unhealthy proportion of body fat.
This important public health issue is now epidemic. According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity in the late 1970s was 15 percent. In 2004, it was 32.5 percent.
An adult who is overweight has a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9. An adult who is obese has a BMI of 30.0 or more. (To find your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 703. Divide that answer by your height in inches. Divide that answer by your height in inches, again. The resulting number is your BMI.)
You may know that obesity is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and harmful cholesterol. But scientists have five findings you may not know:
Finding 1: Obesity can raise some cancer risks
Researchers with the National Cancer Institute have determined that cancers of the breast (after menopause), colon, kidney, esophagus, and lining of the uterus (endometrium) were associated with obesity and physical inactivity.
Finding 2: Obesity is tied to heart attacks in younger adults
Obesity has been linked to a rise in fatal heart attacks in young people. In people ages 15 to 34, the CDC says, the death rate from heart attacks rose 32 percent among women and 10 percent among men during the 1990s.
Finding 3: Obesity can ruin your day
For those who are obese, daily life itself is harder, studies show. Simple tasks like carrying groceries, walking up stairs, kneeling, and stooping are more difficult for the obese. Research by the RAND Institute, the University of Wisconsin, and the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment has shown that obese people fare worse in physical function, vitality, and self-image. Sleep apnea, which is more prevalent among obese people, is often a cause of lethargy.
Obese people are also more likely to have a chronic disease or osteoarthritis. And doctors at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Scotland found obese women were more likely to miss work, see a doctor, and feel down in the dumps than women who aren't obese.
Finding 4: Obesity speeds up girls' puberty
A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that girls who weigh too much tend to develop breasts and pubic hair at age 8 or 9, earlier than their peers. Early puberty puts girls at risk for behavioral and emotional problems.
Finding 5: Obesity is a cause of diabetes in kids
Doctors believe rising childhood obesity helps explain a sharp increase in type 2 diabetes among kids. In type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to make enough insulin or how to effectively use insulin. Experts believe that in the next 10 years more children will have type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. In the past, almost all pediatric diabetics suffered from type 1 diabetes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says most children with type 2 diabetes are obese. The disease usually turns up in middle to late puberty. Children who get little exercise, eat too much, and have a family history of diabetes are at highest risk.
These researchers sound a joint theme: If you're obese, stop gaining weight and start losing. Doctors believe dropping 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve your health and decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. Before you start a weight loss program, though, talk with your doctor.
Finding 6: Obesity in middle age increases risk of dementia
People who are overweight or obese in midlife may have an increased risk for dementia in later life. In a systematic review published in Obesity Reviews, authors found an association between obesity and increased dementia risk. Obesity may increase the risk for general dementia by 42 percent and the risk for Alzheimer's disease by 80 percent.
Although studies have linked obesity and diabetes to an increased risk for dementia and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the National Institutes of Health says that researchers still aren’t sure whether these conditions actually cause them.