Obesity and the Real Reasons for Concern

| Pregnancy & Parenting

When more than one-third of adults in America are considered to be obese, there is a reasonable cause for concern. And the rate of obesity in children and adolescents is no better: 1 in 6 children (ages 2 to 19) are considered obese.

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50 years ago was a golden age of new fast food restaurants, soda pops and margarine. Unfortunately, the introduction of chemicals into our food for flavor and preservation also introduced a united dependency on bad foods. The American environment has subtly duped too many people, what with everyone sitting at desks for nine hours per day, eating portion sizes that are way too big, and being constantly hit with advertisements for food. Yet, the causes of obesity are complex because there are many interrelated factors: genetics, environment, activity levels and how your body uses energy.

Data now shows that people in the younger generation (millennials and Generation Z) are more concerned about over-consumption and the way they energize their bodies. Those younger folk focus on portion size, eating small snacks regularly to keep the hunger at bay, and staying mindful about how their foods are made and processed. Younger consumers tend to treat food as medicine; a way to sustain and maintain a healthy body. With a united understanding that only you are responsible for the health of your body, the epidemic of obesity could be defeated. And it needs to be, because the health problems associated with obesity (collectively called metabolic syndrome) are never-ending.

>> Read: 6 Simple Steps to Stop Overeating

Carrying surplus fat around your midsection (visceral fat) can be exceptionally dangerous to heart health. Visceral fat crowds your organs and produces chemicals called cytokines that boost the risk of heart disease and make your body less sensitive to insulin, thereby increasing the amount of insulin in the body. (via WebMD) This means that the cells struggle to get the energy they need, and all the while blood sugar rises. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) can damage vessels that supply oxygen to organs.

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The result of the body's gradual decline in insulin sensitivity is Type 2 diabetesType 2 diabetes is heavily linked to being overweight, and being overweight is heavily associated with getting diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for almost 95 percent of all diabetes cases and almost every undiagnosed case of diabetes. And, for a diabetic, the cost of lifetime medical care runs, on average, $85,200. The financial burden alone should be enough to make anyone, fit or overweight, stop in their tracks. (via National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

High blood pressure is often seen in obese people. The force of blood flow inside arteries is the definition of blood pressure. The heart must work extra hard to provide all those fat tissues with sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Over time, high blood pressure can weaken the arteries which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. An example of a high blood pressure reading would be 142/93 (the first number being systolic pressure and the second number being diastolic pressure).

A whole slew of cancers are also associated with being obese: breast, bowel, cervical, kidney, liver, stomach, and even more. Fat cells produce excess hormones and proteins, and these "chemical messengers" can increase the risk of several types of cancer. High insulin levels are also common features of many cancers. (via Cancer Research UK)

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And riding alongside this long list are many other problems including sleep apnea, joint problems (because of the extra stress placed on the hips and knees), and psychological effects.

The leading causes of death in America are heart disease and cancer, both of which are more of a risk to overweight people. While a number of things contribute to weight gain, physical inactivity is definitely high on the list. Even walking just 30 minutes a day can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Getting moderate exercise every day, in addition to eating well-rounded meals, is where the real health benefits lie. We can overthrow obesity as an epidemic by physically challenging our bodies and sustaining them with whole foods.

>> Read: Why You Should Ditch the Preservatives for Whole Foods