Fast food doesn't come stamped with the Surgeon General's warning on the grease stained paper bag, and no tax increase has been placed on sugar-sweetened beverages like that placed on cigarettes. Obesity, however, is being compared to smoking as one of the most serious but changeable health threats facing Americans. A person is considered obese if their body mass index (BMI) measures more than 30, based on height and weight. Rates of obesity in the United States and throughout the world are increasing at a disturbing speed, with more than 66% of Americans falling into the overweight or obese category, including 3.2 million New Yorkers.
If these trends continue, it is estimated that by 2030, nearly all American adults will be obese. Perhaps more worrisome is the increase in childhood obesity, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that about 16% of children ages 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity, like smoking, has the ability to threaten nearly every organ system with disease, but each individual can control and modify these results. Obesity is a contributing factor to diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, infertility, heart disease and even cancer.
"Obesity affects so much more than a patient's physical appearance, it is a contributing factor to their long term health," says Dr. Navarra Rodriguez, Chief Medical Officer of Manhattan's Physician Group. "Mainting a healthy weight needs to be a priority for every patient."
Americans suffering from obesity also face emotional, psychological and social consequences. Widespread prejudice plagues obesity patients of all ages on the playground, classroom and office, often leading to depresion and self-doubt.
Obesity costs continue to mount in the United States, rising to more than $147 billion each year. And in the footsteps of rock music and fashion, the Western ways of overeating and physical inactivity are spreading to developing countries as well.
The debilitating pyschological consequences and health risks of obesity are preventable through awareness and action. Monitoring food intake and exercising consistently will help to maintain a healthy body weight, tasks which fall to parents to encourage their children to reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity.
Few health dilemmas receive more attention than obesity, with a constant array of treatment options and alternatives being revealed. Despite one institution's claim that seaweed can help prevent obesity, and the complex, ongoing debate about carbohydrates, a balanced diet is recommended most to keep the body at its ideal weight. When attention to nutrition and exercise fail, more serious measures such as surgery may be considered to treat obesity.
To learn more about obesity and to find which treatment or prevention plan is right for you, speak with your doctor.