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Obesity and Chronic Diseases

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -
Obesity and Chronic Diseases


The era of transmittable diseases has not ended. And now we're also finding that changes in lifestyle associated with the increasing migration of people into towns and cities have added yet another dimension to the world’s health situation: non-transmittable chronic diseases.

These diseases have several common characteristics:

  • They reflect a lifestyle.
  • They evolve gradually over time.
  • They reveal themselves by the worsening of one of the accompanying conditions.
  • They act as precursors for other health conditions.
  • They benefit from the measures taken against them.

Non-transmittable chronic diseases include obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arteriosclerosis-based cerebral-vascular diseases, high blood pressure, cancer and joint problems.

Obesity

Obesity is when an individual has excess body fat that results in weighing 20% more than the ideal weight. It can often cause the development or worsening of other previously mentioned chronic diseases, and can significantly increase the risk of suffering from these other diseases. Furthermore, obesity can be the direct cause of these diseases or can cause them indirectly by creating conditions in which the other diseases thrive.

Aside from total body fat, which is itself a risk factor, the distribution of fat around the body can increase the risk of disease. This is the case with abdominal fat. Those with high fat accumulation around their abdomens (individuals with an apple-shaped body) more frequently report having high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attacks at a young age.

Cardiovascular diseases

Although the risk of suffering from heart disease is greater among men than women under the age of 50, large accumulations of fat in the abdomen reduce this difference to none.

High blood pressure

The link between obesity and high blood pressure has become so obvious that studies show overweight people comprise a third of all high blood pressure cases. This condition is increasing among young people. Studies have also shown that losing weight helps lower high blood pressure.

Cancer

Obese women have a significantly greater risk of suffering from malignant tumors in their breasts and uterus, while obese men have a higher risk of suffering from tumors in their large intestines and gall bladders. The link between obesity and cancer has become apparent even in cases of moderate increases in fat deposits.

Diabetes

Diabetes has a strong genetic component. Nevertheless, it occurs 10 times more in moderately obese people than those with normal body weights. The more obese you are, the greater your risk of suffering from diabetes.

Joint problems

Abnormal levels of uric acid, which can cause pain in the joints (the worst of which is known as gout), grow as fat deposits increase. This, together with the damage caused by excess weight on the spine, hips, knees, and ankles makes obesity one of the main factors in causing joint problems.

Good news

Fortunately, all of these conditions and others that fall within this category are preventable. Adopt a healthy lifestyle consisting of a well-balanced diet, a sensible level of physical activity and adequate stress-relieving measures.

 

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