The increased risks of heart disease and diabetes are among the more common dangers of obesity. Nutritionists, dietitians and have been warning us about being dangerously overweight for decades now. But too many people are still unaware of the other ways obesity can damage their health.
Exceeding one’s recommended BMI (Body Mass Index) can elevate your risk of cancers, arthritis, sleep apnea and infertility. What’s really alarming is that according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, few Americans know about these added risks. In fact, a scant 7 percent were aware of obesity’s elevated cancer risk, and only 15 percent knew that obesity may lead to arthritis, which in turn, impacts your ability to exercise, causing you to gain even more weight. Sadly, as many as 25 percent of respondents were under the impression that being substantially overweight had little bearing on their health.
This “head in the sand” attitude was equally alarming in parents. Only 16 percent thought their child was overweight. Yet government figures show that one-third of children and teens are either overweight or obese. Many nutritionists blame the “fast food” generation who seek foods based on taste and price—not nutrition. Many studies show that children and teens eat too many burgers, potato chips, and pizzas swished down by oversized colas, shakes and sugar-laden fruit drinks. Many teens have also succumbed to the lure of energy drinks, which contain huge amounts of sugar and caffeine.
An unsettling number of people had no idea that obesity can raise the risk of developing cancers of the colon, prostate, uterus and breast. Being overweight makes it more difficult for doctors to locate and treat tumors early. An alarming number of Americans were also unaware of obesity’s connection to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and resultant strokes. Surprisingly, just 5 percent were aware of the connection between obesity and respiratory problems sleep apnea and asthma.
Obesity can also uniquely affect women’s health. A Nurses’ Health Study, which looked at over 100,000 middle-age women during a 14-year period, noted that women with BMIs between 20 and 24 suffered from low infertility. During pregnancy, obesity elevates the risk of early and late miscarriage, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and complications during labor and delivery. Finally, the AP-NORC Center survey concluded that less than 50 percent had discussed obesity’s health risks with their doctor.