It is estimated that within the United States around 30% of the population is obese. The sad news is that these statistics are increasing each day. Obesity is a chronic disease that develops due to lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, and a sedentary lifestyle.
The U.S. Surgeon General has declared that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Approximately:
- 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are considered seriously overweight
- 15 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight
Public health officials warn that the results of physical inactivity and poor diet are catching up to tobacco as a significant threat to health.
The fact that obesity has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. is worrying. Information is power; the following are ways that obesity affects your health and fitness;
- Blount disease. Excess weight on growing bones can lead to this bone deformity of the lower legs.
- Arthritis. Wear and tear on the joints from carrying extra weight can cause this painful joint problem at a young age.
- Slipped capital femoral epiphyses (SCFE). Obese children and teens are at greater risk for this painful hip problem. SCFE requires immediate attention and surgery to prevent further damage to the joint.
- Asthma. Obesity is associated with breathing problems that can make it harder to keep up with friends, play sports, or just walk from class to class.
- Sleep apnea. This condition (where a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep) is a serious problem for many overweight kids and adults. Not only does it interrupt sleep, but sleep apnea can also leave people feeling tired and affect their ability to concentrate and learn. It also may lead to heart problems.
- High blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, the heart must pump harder, and the arteries must carry blood that is moving under greater pressure. If the problem continues for a long time, the heart and arteries, may no longer work as well as they should? High blood pressure, or hypertension, is more common in overweight or obese teens.
- High cholesterol. Long before getting sick, obese teens may have abnormal blood lipid levels, including high cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. These increase the risk of heart attack and stroke when a person gets older.
- Gallstones. An accumulation of bile that hardens in the gallbladder forms gallstones. These may be painful and require surgery.
- Fatty liver. When fat accumulates in the liver, it can cause inflammation, scarring, and permanent liver damage.
- Pseudotumor cerebri. This is a rare cause of severe headaches in obese teens and adults. There is no tumor, but pressure builds in the brain. In addition to headaches, symptoms may include vomiting, unsteady walking, and vision problems that might become permanent if not treated.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Girls who are overweight may miss periods — or not get their periods at all — and might have elevated testosterone (the male hormone) levels in the blood. Although it is normal for girls to have some testosterone in their blood, too much can interfere with normal ovulation and can cause excess hair growth, worsening acne, and male-type baldness. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance, a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes. Overweight women also might have fertility problems.
- Insulin resistance and diabetes. When there is excess body fat, insulin is less effective at getting glucose, the body’s primary source of energy, into cells. More insulin becomes needed to maintain a normal blood sugar. For some overweight teens, insulin resistance may progress to diabetes (high blood sugar).
- Depression. People who are obese are more likely to be depressed and have lower self-esteem.
Obesity will cause fatty liver, high blood pressure, and other physical and metabolic conditions, but it also affects your skin distorting that beautiful glow.
- Darkened, velvety patches called acanthosis nigricans can form, especially in areas where skin folds and overlaps like the knees, elbows, groin, armpits, and neck. Patches may appear grey, brown, or black.
- Folds and creases in the skin may also trap moisture, which can allow spots on your body to become breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast, and fungi. Rashes like intertrigo or jock itch can result, with redness and breaks in the skin that can ooze, become itchy, or make a person more prone to yeast infection.
- When weight is rapidly gained or lost, stretch marks may arise on the skin’s surface. Stretch marks start out pink then gradually become red, then purple. Over time, they can become lighter and almost disappear.
- The strain of weight can extend down into your feet, pressing skin against the insides of shoes and rubbing painful corns onto the toes. To prevent corns, reduce weight and wear well-fitted shoes.