A Report of the Surgeon General (1996) defined obesity to an excess of adipose tissue. Obesity can be measured by looking at the person’s body mass index or the ratio of his or her weight to his or height as well as by observing the individual’s relative weight index or his or her percent desirable weight. It is in America that the heaviest people in the world can be seen. In fact, Americans have been stated to be the heaviest in the world since the 1950s. People in the United States eat more than the normal thrice a day meals.
According to Tuberose, as early as 1996, 33% of adults in the US are already overweight and this rate increased to 61% in a span of three years. In the late 2001, 27% of Americans are obese already and more than 60% are overweight (Tuberose). The spread of obesity in America is influenced by four factors found by scientists, which include the media, the people’s eating habits, people’s lack of exercise and people’s own heritage. Obesity lead to various complexities that are dangerous. For one, because of people’s gain of fatty tissue, they suffer from high blood pressure.
The fatty tissue puts stress on blood vessels, therefore making it harder for the blood to get through (CNN, 2005). The tissue’s demand for oxygen causes the stress on the vessel because it requires more blood to be pumped to the area. A stroke is another problem that is caused from being obese, because there is a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, including the arteries in the brain. Four major diseases or disorders are linked to obesity, which are “type two diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea. ” (Ford, 2006, p. 25).
Type two diabetes was formerly referred to as “adult on-set diabetes because it occurred almost exclusively in adults” (p. 27). This form of diabetes is caused by a person’s insulin deficiency or if the person’s body does not properly use the insulin it does make. No matter how much insulin is produced, insulin-resistant cells can neither “yield to its battering ram nor absorb the blood sugar waiting behind it” (p. 30). The cells remain closed and the glucose stays in the blood, elevating a person’s blood-sugar level. Since the glucose can not reach the cell, the cells run out of energy.
Eventually, the pancreas wears out from chronic overproduction of insulin. The pancreas eventually loses its ability to produce insulin. People with type-two-diabetes are easily susceptible to a host of medical problems. “Male diabetics are more likely, twice as likely in fact, to have coronary artery disease than males who do not have diabetes (Ford, 2006). Many obese people can get a medical condition known as coronary heart disease. “Coronary artery disease (heart disease) is the leading cause of death in America today” (Ford, 2006, 49). Obesity is the major risk factor for this particular disease.
Coronary artery disease is a chronic condition in which the coronary arteries narrow with blockages and harden. It occurs when “low-density lipoproteins (LDL; ‘bad’cholesterol) sticks to the arterial walls and create clogs” (p. 48). Eventually, this material hardens into a waxy substance called plaque. Arteries are usually muscular and flexible. With the build-up of plaque in the arteries, the walls will harden and become rigid, “just like a water hose in the winter time” (p. 48). Without the flexibility of the arterial wall, there is less blood flow. This results in coronary artery disease.
Osteoartheritis, also called “degenerative joint disease”, is the most common joint disorder (Ford, 2006, p. 70). This occurs when cartilage breaks down. Cartilage is the soft, cushioning material that covers the ends of a bone at the joint. “This material, when healthy, allows the bones to glide back and forth over each other” (p. 71). Cartilage also absorbs shock when a person endures physical activity. Osteoarthritis causes the layers of cartilage to wear away, which then makes the cushioning layer thinner and less effective. Through time, the cartilage will wear down and the bones will grind against each other.
Osteoartheritis is usually the worst in joints that bear the most weight, specifically the knees, waist, and lower back. “A person’s joints are designed to hold a healthy weight and can last for up to sixty years” (Ford, 2006, p. 72). This disease is caused in obese people earlier in life because the excess weight puts more stress on the joints. When an individual puts extra weight on the joints, he/she increases the risk of early deterioration of the cartilage. Sleep apnea is another condition caused from obesity. “The Greek word ‘apnea’ means ‘without breath’” (Ford, 2006, p. 75).
When a person has sleep apnea, they literally stop breathing during sleep. This can happen hundreds of times a night. Sometimes, a person can stop breathing for more than thirty seconds. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive apnea and central apnea. Obstructive apnea is associated with obesity. If someone has obstructive apnea, something is blocking their trachea, also known as the windpipe. When a person sleeps, “their throat muscles are tense to keep the airway open” (p. 75). Sleep apnea can be suffered by obese people due to extra fat in the upper body. It is more common when a person has fat stored around the neck.
This concentration of fat can compress and narrow the airway. Within the past decade, “thousands of weight loss products, programs, and plans scream for attention from Americans” to address the severity of the problem (Ford and Libal, 2006, p. 25). Obese people are humans just like everyone else. Exercise and proper diet can help obese people be healthier than ever. With diets going in and out of style, people are starting to realize that being healthy is better than being obese. The trend for personal fitness and healthier diets is important to the lifestyle of Americans today.