Size on the Rise
According to the CDC, more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese and 69% are overweight (including obesity). Those who are obese are at high risk of obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers. These diseases are some of the leading causes of death and can be preventable. The National League of Cities states that “In addition to its serious health consequences, obesity has real economic costs that affect all of us. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are a staggering $190.2 billion or nearly 21% of annual medical spending in the United States. Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14 billion in direct medical costs. Obesity-related medical costs in general are expected to rise significantly especially because today’s obese children are likely to become tomorrow’s obese adults. If obesity rates were to remain at 2010 levels, the projected savings for medical expenditures would be $549.5 billion over the next two decades.”
Obesity or being overweight is having an access of adipose tissue which, over time, results in increasing body weight. When a person’s caloric intake exceeds his or her energy expenditure, the body stores the extra calories in the fat cells. These fat cells function as energy reservoirs, and they enlarge or contract depending on how this energy is used. If people do not balance energy input and output by adopting healthy eating habits and regular exercise, then over time fat builds up and they may become overweight and eventually obese. Factors such as genetic makeup, hormonal and metabolic regulation may contribute to obesity along with psychological and emotional factors which can lead to overeating. When it comes to food consumption, social and cultural pressures also play an important role in the current epidemic. Being overweight is something to worry about as it diminishes the quality of life. Sleep disorders, joint and bone related problems, are often common issues. Emotionally it can take a toll as well, as it may trigger depression, lower self-confidence, and decrease morale and self-esteem.
How do you know if you are overweight or obese and what can you do about it? Obesity is determined by the measurement of body fat, BMI, and waist circumference and not just body weight. People may be above their weight limit, but if they are very muscular with low body fat, they are not considered obese. Others who may appear thin, underweight or even normal could still have excessive body fat and, therefore, still be at risk for developing health-related problems.
The National Institute of Health recommends adopting the following measures to prevent being overweight: “Follow a healthy eating plan. Make healthy food choices, keep your calorie needs and your family’s calorie needs in mind, and focus on the balance of energy IN and energy OUT. Focus on portion size. Watch the portion sizes in fast food and other restaurants. The portions served often are enough for two or three people. Children’s portion sizes should be smaller than those for adults. Cutting back on portion size will help you balance energy IN and energy OUT.
Be active. Make personal and family time active. Find activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, go for a brisk walk, bike or rollerblade, or train together for a walk or run. Reduce screen time. Limit the use of TVs, computers, DVDs, and videogames because they limit time for physical activity. Health experts recommend 2 hours or less a day of screen time that’s not work- or homework-related. Keep track of your weight, body mass index, and waist circumference. Also, keep track of your children’s growth.”
[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; firstname.lastname@example.org. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]
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