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Avoiding Obesity is the Best Medicine

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November 2004
Avoiding Obesity is the Best Medicine

New economic opportunities and modern habits have brought in their wake medical conditions of epidemic proportions that can adversely ? and often fatally ? affect our quality of life. One such medical condition, which has a clear-cut definition, is obesity. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is used for people over the age of sixteen. For example, an individual who weighs 120 lbs and is 5' 4" inches tall has a BMI of 21. Another example would be a person weighing 220 lbs with a height of 5'9". His BMI would work out to 32. A BMI under 25 is considered normal, anything between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, and a BMI above 30 indicates obesity.

Obesity not only threatens longevity, but it also diminishes the quality of one's life. It can lead to diabetes, mellitus, hypertension, arthritis, sleep disorders, cancers of various sorts, and hyperlipidemias. A combination of several of these is referred to as the metabolic syndrome. This is a truly fatal condition and it can cause premature aging. These conditions can also lead to vision problems (including blindness), premature heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. Other ominous consequences include amputations of toes and legs, and aneurysms of the chest and abdomen, which can lead to death if not discovered early.������

It's not unusual for me to see an expectant mother who is diabetic and also has hypertension. These conditions will require more than the usually prescribed visits for an uncomplicated pregnancy. Going by the current statistics, these mothers will probably have large babies, and that means C-sections or episiotomies may be required. Pediatricians are also reporting high incidences of hypertension and diabetes.

Another problem is sleep disturbance, which can cause fatigue, lack of concentration, and daytime somnolence. This can result in loss of productivity ? and termination ? in offices and schools. Overweight and obese people are also subject to job discrimination.

Obesity leads to premature joint damage and degeneration, causing arthritis and requiring the use of fairly expensive drugs and over-the-counter antidotes. Advanced cases in absence of weight loss will require surgical correction with repair, injections or joint replacement ? followed by very costly therapy sessions and rehabilitation. Invasive testing is often necessary to diagnose and measure the degree of the disease. This will sometimes require many days of hospitalization, and the cost of health care is exorbitant.

So much for the bad news, however, since the good news is that HELP IS ON THE WAY! The ball is in our court and a lot of this is reversible if recognized in time. Almost all of it is related to our lifestyle, and it's in our hands to change our habits. Our next column will address exactly that.


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