Long linked to a whole host of problems, obesity is a far-reaching problem that affects millions of Americans today. And while it is well known that obesity can contribute to things like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, you may not realize that obesity is also linked to more common, and sometimes downright scary, conditions including migraine headaches, sleep apnea, carpal tunnel syndrome, narcolepsy and even dementia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third (78.36 million) adults in the United States today are considered obese. The annual medical cost related to obesity in the US was upwards of $147 billion, and an average of $1,429 higher than those of a “normal” weight. While some groups of people are effected more than others, non-Hispanic blacks have the highest rates of obesity at 47.8% and middle age adults are more apt to suffer from obesity that those under the age of 40 or over the age of 60, obesity has become a very serious issue in the US today.
Living in the fast-paced and often hectic environment of today, it is very easy to reach for convenience or fast foods and forego exercise. While genetics plays a part as well, our lifestyles have much to do with the epidemic of obesity. While it is easy to see the effects as they present themselves on the scale, or even in rising blood pressure numbers or tightening waistbands, what is more elusive is what could be coming down the line for the obese.
In 2009, the Archives of Neurology published a study in which researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle reported that those who were obese in middle age had a 39% higher risk of developing dementia later in life. For the study, 2,798 participants were given various neuro-psychiatric tests and MRIs. In a similar study published in Neurology last April, findings showed that obesity is associated with a higher rate of mild cognitive impairment, the ability to recall details of a story and depression.
In addition, carrying too much weight can lead to things like sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing for up to minutes at a time. This potentially serious condition can also lead to MORE weight gain, creating a vicious circle increasing stress hormones and elevated blood glucose and insulin resistance. Increased inflammation from obesity has also been linked to migraines, metabolic syndrome and even Alzheimer’s disease.
With so many harmful effects known to be linked to obesity, why then does it seem so hard for people to conquer this common condition? As every person is different, so too are the reasons and circumstances that lead to obesity. Once a person has gained the weight, it can feel overwhelming to try to lose it. There are literally thousands of pieces of information, suggestions, plans, pills, exercises, hypnosis and more addressing the obesity issue. Perhaps the best place to start is by acknowledging that one is indeed obese and would like to make a change. Surround yourself with those who encourage your goals and remember that the weight did not appear overnight and it will not disappear overnight either. But in the end, overcoming obesity will make for a happier and healthier lifestyle and a greatly reduced chance of suffering health-related problems down the road.