6 Facts on Obesity

By Aleardi, Marianne

We've all heard warnings, yet many of us keep gaining weight. According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults, or 35.7 percent, are obese. 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 already know that obesity is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, arthritis, and harmful cholesterol. Recent research has revealed six findings you may not know:

Finding 1: Obesity can raise some cancer risks

Researchers with the National Cancer Institute have determined that certain cancers of the breast (occurring after menopause), colon and rectum, kidney, esophagus, pancreas, thyroid, gall bladder, the lining of the uterus (endometrium), and possibly other cancer types are 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. Sleep apnea, which is more prevalent among obese people, is often a cause of lethargy during the day.

According to the CDC, obese people are also more likely to have chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Stroke, dyslipidemia (high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides), and osteoarthritis are also more common among obese people.

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 may put girls at risk for behavioral and emotional problems.

Finding 5: Obesity is a cause of diabetes in kids

Doctors believe increases in childhood obesity help explain the sharp increase in type 2 diabetes among kids. In type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to make enough insulin or use insulin effectively. Experts believe that in the next 10 years more children will have type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes. In the past, almost all children with diabetes 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.

Finding 6: Obesity in middle age increases risk of dementia

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.

Medical Reviewer: [Fiveash, Laura DrPH, MPH, RD, Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN, Lambert, J.G. M.D., Ratini, Melinda DO, MS] Copyright: © 2007 CancerSource, 280 Summer Street, 9th Floor, Boston, MA 02210. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.

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