Public health experts agree that overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in this country and around the world. More than a third of U.S. adults are obese. People ages 60 and older are more likely to be obese than younger adults, according to the most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And the problem also affects children. One out of five, or 17%, of U.S. children ages 6 to 19 are obese.
Obesity has a far-ranging negative effect on health. Each year in the U.S., obesity-related conditions cost more than $100 billion and cause premature deaths. The health effects linked with obesity include:
High blood pressure. Excess weight requires more blood to circulate to the fat tissue and causes the blood vessels to become narrow (coronary artery disease). This makes the heart work harder, because it must pump more blood against more resistance from the blood vessels and can lead to a heart attack (myocardial infarction). More circulating blood and more resistance also means more pressure on the artery walls. Higher pressure on the artery walls increases the blood pressure. Excess weight also raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, adding to the risk of heart disease.
Type 2 diabetes. Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. Obesity can make your body resistant to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. When obesity causes insulin resistance, your blood sugar level rises. Even moderate obesity dramatically increases the risk for diabetes.
Heart disease. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, happens more often in obese people. Coronary artery disease is also more common in obese people because fatty deposits build up in arteries that supply the heart. Narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain called angina or a heart attack. Blood clots can also form in narrowed arteries and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
So what can we do about it?
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