Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is Obesity Ruining Your Health?

You may be at risk for a number of chronic diseases if you are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for disease Control and Prevention. Despite this dire warning, two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And each day, millions attempt to lose weight. Some succeed. But many lose a few pounds, or even a lot, only to regain it.

According to the statistics on losing weight, only about five percent of those who lose weight are able to keep it off for more than five years. That leaves millions of people at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other lifelong health problems.

Obesity and Diabetes
Although not everyone who is obese will develop diabetes the chances are, if you are obese, you are at increased risk for diabetes. Obesity is marked by an unusually high number of fat cells and large deposits in those cells. As a result, your body develops a resistance to insulin, which is needed to metabolize sugar for energy. Instead of using this sugar for energy, your body creates a resistance to insulin. That is why type 2 diabetes, the type associated with obesity, is called insulin resistance diabetes. When this happens, your blood sugar becomes elevated and remains elevated for a while. Then you might experiences a sudden drop in your blood sugar. These highs and lows can be dangerous to your health.

High Blood Pressure and Obesity
The extra work that your body has to do to carry around the excess weight when you are obese can cause high blood pressure and take a toll on your health. You are more likely to deposit fat in the lining of your blood vessels if you are obese. This fat then causes the blood vessels to become narrow. The arteries may become thick and hard also, which complicates the problem. As a result of these changes, it becomes difficult for blood to flow through the blood vessels and get to vital organs. When this happens, your blood pressure builds up, leading to a diagnosis of hypertension or high blood pressure.

Heart Disease and Obesity
Obesity is a major contributing factor in the development of heart disease in the United States. The work of your heart is critical in pumping oxygen-rich blood to the lungs and other vital organs. This is generally not a problem if you are not overweight or obese. But the more weight you gain, the harder your heart has to work to get the blood-and oxygen-to the lungs and other vital organs. The muscles of your heart could actually become damaged, less efficient and finally stop working, resulting in a heart attack.

High Cholesterol and Obesity
You might have heard a lot of bad things about cholesterol and think that nothing good could come from cholesterol in your body. Actually, cholesterol is not all bad. It plays a vital role in making vitamin D from the sun; it is used for synthesizing hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone; . However, too much cholesterol can result in clogged arteries, which can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

The more fat there is in your body, as in the case of obesity, the more likely you are to have dangerously high levels of cholesterol. This can happen because you consume too much cholesterol or your body produces too much and at the same time, loses the ability to get rid of the excess. Cholesterol then builds up in the arteries (blood vessels), causing them to become narrow and making it hard for blood to get to the heart, lungs, brain and other organs. 

In some cases, cholesterol-rich plaque may build up in the arteries. Ultimately, a piece of this plaque may break off, travel in the blood, and end up causing a blockage in one of the blood vessels, If this blockage prevents the blood from reaching your heart or brain you can have a stroke.

One of the most important things that you can do to prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol is to lose weight. Numerous studies show that losing as little as 7 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and may reduce cholesterol levels.

Simple steps like eating smaller portions, cutting back on foods that are high in calories from sugar and fat, and reducing salt intake can help you to lose the weight and improve your health. The evidence for the health benefits of losing weight is so powerful that there is growing emphasis on losing weight to prevent or control obesity-related chronic diseases. In some instances, you might even be able to reverse the condition.

About Dr. Dorene E. Carter
Dr. Dorene E. Carter is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with over 25 years of experience in nutrition education, counseling, training, consulting and writing. She is founder and CEO of CHANA Project, the Child Health and Nutrition Access Project, a nonprofit organization serving children and families. Dr. Carter received her PhD in Nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley.