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Medicine and Health

The Epidemiology of Obesity

Obesity is a chronic disease, which means that it can be controlled but not cured.  This seems to indicate that once an individual has become obese (s)he will always have a propensity towards obesity and must, therefore, do the best that (s)he can to control it.

If somebody weighs 20% more than (s)he should and has  a body mass index (BMI) of 30+, that individual is generally considered to be obese.  It is, however, not an infallible rule in that, for example,  a person who has worked out a lot and is very fit can actually have a higher BMI than an unfit individual.  “The BMI is a statistical measurement derived from your height and weights”(MNT).

Many societal factors contribute to obesity, which is much more prevalent today than it was in the 1950s when many mothers still had time to grow gardens  and cook three healthy meals each day.  However, the days of Father Knows Best (movie) have for the most part disappeared.  Breakfasts, the most important meal of the day, are often skipped, resulting in an individual becoming quite hungry mid-morning and, as a result, snacking on chips and hamburgers.  Furthermore, with children being involved in various activities and parents working different hours, so-called meals are often eaten on the run and regular meal times, that are so important to good health, are rare.  Fast food establishments are everywhere and thriving.  Today’s population is also eating more than they did three or four decades ago.  Today, unlike decades ago, people in the USA lead a very sedentary lifestyle watching TV, being on the computer, driving a car even for short distances, taking an elevator instead of the stairs, etcetera. However, “science shows that genetics plays a role in obesity”(Research Chair in Obesity).

Far too many people are sleep deprived these days with the result that they eat more due to hormonal changes.  A person should drink approximately eight glasses of clean water—instead people drink fructose laden soft drinks, juices and alcohol, which can eventually lead to lipid accumulation, fatty liver, “hypertension, resistance to insulin, diabetes, and obesity (MNT).  Even stopping smoking, which is a good thing, results in some people gaining quite significant amounts of weight, as do some prescriptions.

There are some health risks associated with obesity; namely, “bone and cartilage degeneration (osteoarthritis), coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), high total cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia), respiratory problems, several cancers, sleep apnea, stroke, Type 2 diabetes”(ibid.).

Individuals, insurance companies, and hospitals are all facing increased financial costs due to obesity-related illnesses and deaths.  The efficiency and revenue of the workplace is decreasing due to missed work and ability limitations of obese individuals.  Obese-related medical spending is now surpassing that of smoking-related illnesses (Reuters, April 30, 2012).

Within the last three to five years, people have accepted that there is an obese epidemic; and as a result, some changes are slowly being made.  In schools (and in some other places), fructose-laden drinks, chocolate bars have been removed from vending machines.  Only healthy food is now being served in most school and some work cafeterias. Grocery packages show their contents and nutritional values; and after much education, people are slowly using them.

References

MNT, Medical News Today.  Retrieved on January 26, 2013, from http://www.Medicalnewstoday.com/info/obesity.

Research Chair in Obesity.  Etiology.  Retrieved on January 26, 2013, from http://businessfinancialpost.com2012/04/03/

Reuters, S. B. (April 30, 2012).  Financial costs of the US obesity epidemic reach new heights.  Retrieved on January 26, 2013, from http://obesity.ulaval.ca.obesity generalities/genetics.