The Obesity Epidemic: Part 3

April 20, 2011 No Comments by Scott Isaacs MD

The American Heart Association reports that for every 8 pounds a person gains, the risk for heart disease increases by 50%.  Heart disease starts much earlier than we once thought.  Studies have found early signs of heart disease in children as young as 8 years old.  A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who take cholesterol medications but do not have a healthy lifestyle continue to be at high risk for having a heart attack.

You don’t even have to be overweight to develop health problems that are typically thought to occur in overweight people.  Research from the Mayo Clinic has found that normal-weight people who have a high percentage of body fat are four times more likely to have insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.  This condition has been termed “metabolically obese, normal weight.”

A review of 40 studies found that exercise can slow down aging and improve more than 20 chronic physical and psychological conditions. Consuming a Western diet doubles the risk for being depressed.  People who follow healthy diets seem to be less depressed. The Diabetes Prevention Program reported that taking antidepressants increases the risk for getting diabetes.  Other studies have shown that increasing exercise decreases the risk for developing both depression and diabetes.  Exercising as little as 20 minutes each week can improve depression.  Even a single bout of exercise has been shown to prevent the buildup of anger.  People report that their moods are under better control after exercising.

The British Medical Journal reported that if you are overweight in middle age, you have an 80% increased risk of having poor health later in life.

Sitting shortens your life, even if you are not overweight.  Based on measurement of chromosomes, it is estimated that the cells of people who don’t exercise are biologically 10 years older than those who exercise.

Exercise strengthens the covering of nerve cells in the brain, protecting from memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

Health care costs are increasing faster that the obesity epidemic itself.

10% of patients are responsible for 64% of all health care costs in the United States.  The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that obesity care costs twice as much as previous estimates, adding $28,000 to one’s medical bills over a decade.  Obese people spend 77% more on medications.  One insurance company predicts that prediabetes and diabetes will cost the United States more than $3.4 trillion dollars over the next decade.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that obesity related medical problems will increase 70% by 2015 and 240% by 2025.

The Finnish National Diabetes Prevention Program found that the people who lose even small amounts of weight can reduce their risk for diabetes by up to 70%.  The British Medical Journal reported that a healthy diet helps manage diabetes better than any medication.  New guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology urge exercise as one of the best ways to fight cancer.  Exercise has been shown to prevent cancer as well as improve survival rates, reduce fatigue and improve quality of life.  Having a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk for a stroke by 80%.  34% of cases of high blood pressure can be prevented by improving lifestyle.  Exercise improves the function of the immune system.  Exercising five or more times per week reduces the chances of getting a cold.  The amount of fat-burning substances in the body is increased by exercise.


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