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The Dangers Of Obesity

Obesity, often viewed as a character defect rather than a medical problem, is second only to smoking as a contributor to illness and premature death.

“With Kentucky ranked as one of the worst in the nation in terms of obesity,” says Robert C. Frederich Jr., M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, “Kentuckians should be aware of this preventable, sometimes fatal disease.”

Obesity, a condition affecting millions of American adults, results from excessive storage of fat in the body. Your body is made up of water, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and various vitamins and minerals. If you have too much fat, especially if most of the fat is located in your waist area,
you are at higher risk for health problems.

The cause of most obesity is overeating, which typically is established by the family and cultural environment during childhood and may become a lifelong habit.

Other causes of obesity include insufficient exercise, glandular malfunction (such as a malfunction in the pituitary, thyroid, or adrenal cortex), and psychological distress.

Frederich adds, “Some people see (food marked as) low fat and healthy, but may not be looking at calories. Also, more people are eating out these days, and portion sizes have increased.”

Genetics also affect obesity. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain how much fat you have in your body. Your brain gets this message and reacts accordingly. For instance, if your leptin tells your brain that you are lacking in fat, your brain is going to tell your body that you are hungry. If there is a defect in the hormone, you may have plenty of fat in your body, but your brain is telling your body it is lacking in fat, therefore making your body hungry.

Obesity has many consequences. It can cause diseases such as noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM or adult-onset diabetes), hypertension, coronary heart disease, certain cancers, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease, infertility, and degenerative arthritis.

“About 300,000 people go to an early grave due to obesity each year,” Frederich says.

The older you get the more chance you have of becoming obese, but it increasingly is becoming a problem of the young. The number of obese children has doubled in a little over a decade.

“Type II diabetes is a consequence of obesity, and this type of diabetes-which used to only show up in adults-is increasing in the young,” Frederich says.

Although obesity is a significant health hazard, there are ways to prevent it. The most important part, Frederich says, seems obvious but bears repeating: Watch what you eat and make sure your foods are low in fat and low in calories. Also, at least 20 minutes of exercise a day is a great way to prevent obesity.

“Unlike other addiction, food addiction can be controlled only by moderation. Moderation is harder to enforce than abstinence,” says
Frederich.

Help is available. For example, Health Management Resource, a national company with more than 15 years of experience in professional weight loss treatment, is affiliated with the University of Kentucky. Call (606) 323-6824 to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Measuring obesity

The body mass index (BMI) is a way of measuring obesity. BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. People with a BMI over 45 are considered morbidly obese and at very high risk for health problems; a BMI over 32 is severely overweight at high risk; over 26 is marginally overweight at some risk; over 22 is normal at very low risk; and under 21 is underweight.

For an easy calculation of your BMI, you can use a computer and modem to call
this website that will do it for you: http://www.iupui.edu/~psych/info/notes/bmi.html.

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