Playing Ostrich with Obesity

I know it’s a topic that everyone wants to ignore, but the facts are…we can’t. Let’s step away from talking about health insurance and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, ACA) for a moment and focus on our health. Yes, I will admit that I have a few more pounds on me than I should and according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) I am considered obese. So, this article hits close to home for me as well.

Below are highlights from an article by Liz Neoporent of Good Morning America
7 Surprising Effects of Obesity

More than 36% of Americans are now considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 34% are considered overweight.

These statistics are quoted so often, most people no longer find them surprising. Yet what may be surprising is how far the effects of obesity reach beyond clothing size and cardiovascular risks.

More Cancer
The National Cancer Institute associates 34,000 new cases of cancer in men and 50,000 in women each year with obesity.

Right now the link between excess weight and cancer is purely circumstantial and not necessarily cause-and-effect, but experts have floated some theories as to why more fat tracks with higher rates of cancer.

Infertility Increases
Overweight women have a harder time getting pregnant. One Indian study of 300 morbidly obese women found that over 90% of them developed polycystic ovarian disease, a condition associated with infertility, over a three-year period.

As with cancer, the association between obesity and infertility isn’t entirely clear.

“Obesity is an inflammatory state and that alone might decrease fertility,” noted Dr. Marc Bessler, director of Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University Medical Center. “It may also be the result of hormone changes produced by the fatty tissue.”

Bessler said that many of his heavier patients experienced difficulty getting pregnant. And many infertility clinics don’t accept female patients with high body mass indexes given their diminished chances of conceiving.

Premature Birth Risk
A new Journal of the American Medical Association study found that obesity increases a woman’s chance of having a preterm baby, especially when her body mass index is 35 or higher. The study’s authors speculate that having too much fat may inflame and weaken the uterine and cervical membranes.

Less Shuteye
Nearly 80% of older, obese Americans report having problems with sleep, a recent American Sleep Foundation survey found.

Poor sleep contributes to a host of diseases including diabetes, heart disease and, ironically, obesity itself. Numerous studies link short sleep to expanding waistlines, including the Harvard Nurses’ Study, which found that those who slumbered less than five hours a night were 15% more likely to gain weight than those who enjoyed at least seven hours of sleep.

Dr. Donald Hensrud, a nutritionist and preventive medicine expert in the department of endocrinology, diabetes, metabolism and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic, said one of the most immediate health dangers for many obese people is sleep apnea, a condition in which a person gasps or stops breathing momentarily while asleep.

Tough Love
A Yale study found that weight is the number one reason people are bullied at any age and those who are bullied have lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression and increased risk of suicide.

The main source of ridicule, according to the Yale researchers? Loved ones.

“More than 40% of children who seek treatment for weight loss say they have been bullied or teased by a family member,” said the study’s lead author, Rebecca Puhl. “When we asked obese women who stigmatized them the most, 72% said it was someone in their family.”

Puhl said discussions with loved ones about their burgeoning weight often come across as judgmental and derogatory, even when intentions are good. However, offering support and encouragement is the most effective approach to help someone struggling to drop off pounds.

Medical Gap
Puhl said her studies have found that 67% of overweight men and women report being shamed or bullied in the doctor’s office. And 50% of doctors found that fat patients were “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment” while 24% of nurses said they were repulsed by their obese patients.

A negative reception from a healthcare provider is especially detrimental to obese people, Puhl stressed, because they already contend with a greater number of health problems than average.

“Besides jeopardizing discussions between patients and healthcare providers, someone who is obese is more likely to avoid the doctor altogether even when they have a problem,” she said.

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