Obesity. It is easily the most prevalent health issue in the US. More and more doctors are beginning to view this health issue as a disease rather than just an issue of overeating, self-control or bad diet. In fact, just recently the American Medical Association voted to have obesity listed as a disease which was a huge step in the medical community. Some don’t agree with this move, however more and more medical professionals and the public are clear that obesity IS a serious risk factor for many diseases.
From Prevention.com – “Tansneem Bhatia, MD, (aka Dr. Taz), medical director and founder, the Atlanta Center for Holistic & Integrative Medicine – Obesity, like alcoholism, depression, and anxiety, is a disease. There are definite medical patterns: hormone imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies and nutritional exhaustion that all contribute to obesity. Many of my patients that are obese have underlying medical issues that need to be addressed.
I agree that there are behavior patterns that contribute to obesity, but these same behavior patterns are rooted in other biological factors. Stress, the standard American diet and the industrialization of food have all been blamed in the obesity epidemic. While all of these factors contribute to being obese, they also create critical biological imbalances that people cannot overcome, or do not have the tools or knowledge to understand how to change.
Diets and exercise regimens often fail simply because the underlying medical pathology has not been addressed. My approach is to evaluate a patient fully, including family history, exhaustive hormone evaluation, nutrient status, and life inventory to understand where to begin in treating this disease. There is no quick weight loss for the obese.”
While there are many differing views on the subject (click here to read more opinions from medical experts), there is no doubt that obesity is a serious problem. There are a whole slew of diseases linked to obesity, some which are a symptom while others can contribute as a cause.
The following are 5 potentially very serious medical conditions that are connected to obesity.
Hypertension or high blood pressure affects approximately 1 in every 3 Americans. Though the causes of hypertension are still fairly unknown studies do show that there is a strong correlation between hypertension and obesity. A common hypothesis is that obese bodies have much more strain, causing the heart to have to work harder. Hypertension itself isn’t fatal but it can cause fatal heart conditions and ultimately heart failure which is fatal. In fact, the leading cause of heart-related conditions is hypertension. You can read more about hypertension here.
“More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure. If you’re African American, there’s a good chance that you, a relative or an African American friend has the disease, which is also known as HBP or hypertension. Not only is HBP more severe in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.” – American Heart Association
- Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes
Diabetes is a well-known disease that is common in a wide range of people, from those who are relatively fit to young children. I do want to note that African Americans are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes as non Hispanic whites. There are different types of diabetes, like type 1 and type 2, and even gestational diabetes that occurs in pregnant women. Diabetes can become a very serious problem in obese individuals and increase their risk of other medical conditions.
Both type 1 and type 2 are linked to obesity. Type 2 may be able to function without medication whereas type 1 will need insulin. Pre-diabetes is, as you’d expect, high blood sugar but not to the extent it could be considered type 2. Pre-diabetes is sometimes linked to insulin resistance, which is a medical condition unto itself that many people don’t know they have. One sign of it is the dark coating that appears on many people’s necks, faces and folds of skin. Without treatment (i.e. a change in diet and lifestyle) pre-diabetes will become type 2. The American Diabetes Association is a useful site for learning more about diabetes and pre-diabetes.
- Fatty Liver Disease
There are a few different types of fatty liver disease, the one associated with obesity being nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. NAFLD is the most common liver disease in America and prominent in those who are obese. This disease can ultimately cause liver failure. Unfortunately, NAFLD also increase heart disease in those who are obese making it potentially fatal in the long run.
A reputable source of information on NAFLD is LiverFoundation.org. We’ve also got an article on the topic.
- Heart Disease
The CDC says that “About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.” Heart disease, the number one reason for premature death in the US, is a medical condition that encompasses a few different individual diseases. The most common heart disease is coronary artery disease, the main cause of heart attacks. Strokes can also occur due to heart disease. Similarly to hypertension, the chances of heart disease is astronomically higher in obese individuals.
The American Heart Association has a page outlining common heart diseases here.
- Sleep Apnea
Around 18 million people have sleep apnea in the United States. Many of the ladies we’ve featured here on our blog have escaped their sleep apnea with weight loss. There are two types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. The leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is obesity. The dangers of sleep apnea include an increase in hypertension, general fatigue, liver disease and heart disease.
Many Americans go undiagnosed when it comes to sleep apnea. More information can be found on this site.
As you may have noticed, a few of the most common medical conditions of obesity are connected themselves. Hypertension and heart disease for example can happen as a result of wide variety of different diseases. Those who are obese and overweight need to take special care towards cardiovascular health as well as immediately treat high blood pressure and low blood sugar.
Obesity is a problem that affects more than a third of the entire American population. The statistics are quite shocking and give no doubt that obesity needs to be taken seriously. The future does look promising as more and more people are beginning to understand the severity of the problem and realize it isn’t just extra weight, but rather a condition that can cause vulnerability to dangerous medical conditions. Making real, lasting lifestyle changes is key. You don’t have to change direction overnight, but your health is worth it if you are facing extra pounds affecting your health in a serious way.