Obesity and Chronic Disease

June 21, 2011 Oyibo Princess
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Percent of Obese (BMI > 30) in U.S. Adults

This post is long overdue (about a week), but about a week ago I watched the show Extreme Makeover: Weghtloss Edition.  In the show, Chris Powell, health and fitness guru, helps a 500 lb 45-year old bachelor  to lose almost 300 lbs in less than a year. While I like that the show helps people to live healthy life styles and to reclaim their lives, while watching the show, some issues cam to mind.

  1. Being chosen to guest-star (or lose weight) on an episode is almost like winning the lottery. While there are so many obese and overweight individuals only a very small section of the population gets such an intense intervention program like those on the Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. 25% percent of Americans have a BMI of 30 or more, where as I could imagine less than 1% of American have the opportunity to be on those television shows.
  2. We wait until the damage has been done to take action. Why should we wait until a guy is 1/4 of a ton to help him? Dana, our hero on the show, had been overweight since age 5. By the time he turned 45, he had been overweight and obese for 40 years and the diseases associated with being overweight, diabetes and heart disease can no longer be reversed without some divine intervention, of course.
  3. We assume that fat people are the only unhealthy individuals that require intervention. This is probably my biggest problem with our cultural perception of health and weight loss.  We assume that skinny always means healthy and fat always means unhealthy. While BMI and health are correlated, the BMI is not always causative, meaning skinny people are not always healthy.

I have a cousin who has never been fat a day in his life and he has type 2 diabetes (no I did not meant to say type 1). The doctor of the skinniest girl in my friend group begged her to start exercising because her blood pressure was reaching elevated levels.  Diabetes and high blood pressure.  These are supposed to be the diseases of the overweight and obese. If you do have higher than average BMIs, you are likely to suffer from those two diseases, but you do not have have to be overweight or obese to get them.  All it takes is an unhealthy lifestyle (which does not only mean poor diet and lack of exercise but also poor stress management and lack of sleep)

I tell people that I need to go to the gym and they say, “Why?” or “You don’t need to go to the gym.” One of my aunts tells me that I can eat whatever I want to because I am skinny.  It’s these kind of attitudes that are killing our nation’s people.  Peopl have the attitude that if it’s healthy it probably does not taste good. If it is unhealthy it probably tastes good. I went to a restaurant with a friend and he asked about the appetizers. The waitress recommended the spinach dip, he responded, “Oh no. Sounds too healthy for me.”  It’s probably not even that healthy if the person eating it does not exercise much.

I always tell people that 80% of death related diseases are from diet-related diseases (and by the way a friend shock me when I told her this because she did not want to hear it).  However, I heard this statistic in Whole Foods during a Prospective Health Challenge so I want to be positive.

Okay, these are the common diet related diseases:

  • Cardiovascular diseases and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Some cancers (such as bowel, pancreas, liver and oral)

What are the leading causes of death in the US? CDC says that in 2007, the leading causes of death were:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Four of the five diet-related disease are on the list of the ten leading disease related deaths in 2007 in the US.  There are actually 5 but stroke and heart disease count separately on the list of deaths and together on the list of chronic diseases for some reason. The other five diseases are accidents (could be largely the result of drunk driving and consider drinking alcohol and eat sweets to be almost the same but that is for another day), chronic lower respiratory disease (oh snap, that’s me, but I was born with that and it can be well managed with diet and careful exercise), alzheimer’s (this is genetic, but vitamin defeciency, stroke, and anemia, also related to diet, can worsen the symptoms), influenza (apparently this cannot be prevented through diet, who knew?). The last two, which I had never heard of are both cauased by bacteria.

So there you have it. Diet has a huge impact on our bodies, so we should be careful what we put into it.  I am only having trouble linking three of the conditions with diet. To my Christians, the body is a temple for the triune God. Let’s take take care of our bodies. Some say, “I just eat what taste good.” Proverbs 21:17 says “He who loves pleasure will become poor.” And it is true. I have seen it with my own eyes. A man who is very close to me is overweight, has diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholestoral. Why? Because he refuses to eat healthy foods. He eats an enitre bag of Hershey in one sitting. He eats honey buns, Little Debbie Cakes, and ice cream whenever he can. As a result, he sleeps all day (12 hours or more), he does not have a steady paying job, although his education would allow him to make $70,000-$100,000 per year.  Because of his health he is poor. His wife has to work even though she is 65 and wants to retire. She works because she knows if she stops, the man will not have health insurance. The stress of working and taking care of him has given her shingles 3 times in the past two years. This is an extremem case, but it goes to show you that your decisions concerning your health not only affect every aspect of your life, but they also affect the people you are supposed to love (your family).

Once, I entered The Iron Chef Competition that my Christian Fellowship hosted. I told some people that the goal of our team was to show people that healthy food could  be tastier than unhealthy food (or unbalanced meals). One girl told us, “Ya’ll gon lose.” But guess what? We won 1st place. A few people thought that it was an impossible feat but we (a team of four students) did it. We showed people that healthy food can taste great. What our nation needs is a paradigm shift.  Healthy food can be delicious!  Exercising can be fun! Not only is healthy living enjoyable but it is essential to life.

Statistics were from this CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm

Look at the awesome map that shows how have changed over the past 20 years: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html


Entry Filed under: Health and Fitness

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