Doctor’s Tip: Health problems associated with being overweight
Obesity is becoming more prevalent every year in countries on a Western diet, and as we export this diet to the rest of the world obesity is increasing worldwide. The body mass index (BMI) is used to define obesity, with normal BMI being 18.5-24.9, overweight being 25-29.9, and obesity being greater than 30. This measurement is calculated by dividing body weight in kilograms by height in meters squared, and if you want to see what your BMI is, calculators can be found on the internet.
However, BMI is not a perfect measurement of a person’s risk for health problems from adipose tissue (fat):
Irrespective of BMI, if waist circumference measured just above your hip bones (about the level of your navel) is 35 inches or greater in a female or 40 inches or greater in a male (lower cutoff in Asians and East Indians), then harmful visceral fat is present — fat in and around your internal organs.
If you look at your naked profile in the mirror and you have even a small “belly,” you have visceral fat, even if your BMI is in the normal range.
Weight gain is common as we age in this country, but it isn’t normal. If you are around 50 or older, you should weigh what you did when you graduated from high school (this rule can’t be used for younger people because so many kids are overweight now).
If you go from a BMI of 18 to a BMI of 24, both of which are in the normal range, this represents a 40-pound weight gain, and even a 5-pound weight gain is associated with disease.
Here are some of the health problems associated with being overweight:
Increased incidence of heart attacks, the main cause of death in the U.S.
Increased incidence of strokes, another common cause of death and a major cause of disability.
High blood pressure.
Increased risk of diabetes, which commonly results in complications such as loss of vision, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and nerve damage.
Increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Increased risk of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Excess weight increases the risk of several types of cancer: breast; uterus; pancreas; kidney; colon and rectum; and esophagus.
Mobility problems including degenerative arthritis of hips and knees.
Gall bladder disease.
Chronic, low-grade inflammation.
In summary, gaining weight in Americans as they age is common but is not normal and contributes to several health problems. Next week’s column will be about how to prevent and permanently reverse obesity.
Dr. Feinsinger is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and other medical issues, and to help people with hospital or other medical bills they don’t understand or think are too high. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.