Sleep, Exercise, and the Obesity Epidemic: Part 2
Consequences and Risks of Obesity
- If Americans continue to weight gain at the current rate, it will lead to six million new cases of diabetes, five million cases of heart disease, and 400,000 cases of cancer within the next two decades.
- Obesity related health conditions cause over 300,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year.
- Obesity is a contributing factor in approximately 100,000-400,000 deaths in the United States each year, costing: $117 billion in direct/indirect costs (6-12% of all national healthcare costs).
- Obese and overweight people miss 56 percent more work days than people of lower weight.
- Obesity is linked to over 60 chronic diseases.
- Severe/morbid obesity may shorten life expectancy by 14 years or more.
- 44 percent of the diabetes burden; 23 percent of the heart disease burden; and between 7 and 41 percent of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.
- Strokes cause over 133,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.
- Blood fats, also called lipids, include: High Density Lipoproteins, Low-Density Lipoproteins, and Triglycerides.
- Diabetes, antipsychotic, and antidepressant medications have been linked with weight gain (a side effect of the drug). These medications alter the function of your body and your brains neurochemistry, preventing it from performing as it should and blocking important neural signals from traveling to areas of the brain and body.
- Sedentary lifestyle and poor diet increases your risk of all causes of mortality; doubles risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity; increases risk of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.
- Not smoking, not being overweight, eating healthy, and exercising lowers your risk of chronic disease by 78 percent, lowers diabetes risk by 90 percent, lowers heart attack risk by 80 percent.
Illness and Disease Risk Factors from Obesity
Cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease; high blood pressure (hypertension); higher likelihood of developing acute and chronic inflammation; high amount of low-density lipoproteins (LDL bad cholesterol), and low amount of high-density lipoproteins (HDL good cholesterol); kidney disease where your kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood properly; fatty liver disease occurs when fat builds up in the liver, which may lead to liver failure; coronary artery disease (increases risk of heart attack); mood disorders like depression; decline in memory capabilities and cognitive health; respiratory issues like sleep apnea and asthma; reproductive and fertility complications; pregnancy problems in women; high blood sugar/glucose levels that lead to diabetes; plantar fasciitis in the feet, infected toenails, torn achilles tendon from increased strain on the lower body; peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage that causes weakness/numbness problems and pain in hands and feet, which may lead to amputation; increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic disorders, osteoarthritis in the joints, and hormone imbalance (gherin and insulin); spinal problems, pneumonia, urinary tract problems, gout (a disease that affects joints from too much uric acid in the blood.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
Cardiovascular/heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, with over 610,000 deaths each year, which amounts to one in every four deaths in the country. Coronary artery disease, in particular, the most common type of heart disease, contributes to over 370,000 of the deaths from heart disease. Risk factors of cardiovascular disease include: High blood pressure, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, pre-diabetes and diabetes, high levels of bad LDL cholesterol, smoking cigarettes, and obesity, being the leading risk factor. Cardiovascular disease is a preventable disease if people are willing to make the necessary changes to their diet, exercise, and lifestyle to escape from the unhealthy habits that they have allowed to develop over the course of their life.
Abusing and overindulging on foods in the Standard American Diet for long periods of time without engaging in physical exercise causes the body to store excess energy in fat cell tissue. When our bodies store large amounts of fat from the consumption of unhealthy foods, our blood pressure increases and greater amounts of force are exerted against our blood vessels as our hearts must pump harder to supply blood to the rest of our bodies. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects 85 million Americans each year and is involved in over 75 percent of obesity cases. High blood pressure puts unnecessary strain on our heart; damages blood vessels; raises your risk of stroke, which occurs when the flow of blood to our brain stops, causing brain cells to die from a lack of oxygen; contributes to a greater likelihood of kidney failure, organs that help the body regulate blood pressure; and increases our risk of heart attack, which occurs when hardened and clogged blood vessels prevent the heart from receiving and transporting blood to the rest of the body.
Scientific and medical studies over many decades show that the number of cases of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks are rising, but the number of deaths remains the same or is falling. This means that advances in medical technology and treatment provide the care to save and prolong people’s lives, but with significantly depleted energy levels and a lower overall quality of life if individuals do not make the changes to their lifestyle to prevent a second heart attack. Over 735,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack each year; for 210,000 of these individuals, this is their second heart attack.
Diabetes represents the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, contributing to over 76,000 premature deaths each year, many of them a result of living a lifestyle of inactivity and poor diet. Diabetes rates have risen 70 percent since 1995, affecting over 30 million Americans; an additional 84 million Americans are living with pre-diabetes, with subtle or no symptoms at all that, if untreated, could lead to type-2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes. The total number of Americans living with diabetes or pre-diabetes amounts to 40 percent of the adult population; more than 87 percent of these diabetes cases are overweight and obesity related.
Obesity causes cells in the body to change, making them less resistant to insulin, the hormone responsible for carrying glucose/sugar from the blood to the cells for energy use and other metabolic processes. When the body becomes insulin resistant, glucose levels increase in the blood, leading to a higher blood sugar concentration, which may lead to diabetes if untreated.
Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes: Is a genetic malfunction in which the bodies immune system attacks the pancreas gland and destroys insulin producing cells, the hormone that transports sugar/glucose; without the body’s production of insulin, sugar/glucose cannot gain entrance into cells for energy use, which causes it to linger in the bloodstream and elevate blood sugar levels. (Of the 30 million people with diabetes in the U.S. only 1.25 million have Type 1 Diabetes).
- Type 2 Diabetes: The pancreas gland is intact and able to produce insulin, but the cells of the body resist the effects of insulin (called insulin resistance). A body that suffers from insulin resistance will have blood sugar levels that are above normal, which may lead to a greater likelihood of stroke, neurodegenerative disorders in the brain, kidney and heart disease, amputation, and blindness.
Cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States, is defined as the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body; if untreated, the abnormal growth could spread to disrupt and destroy vital organs that are necessary for our survival. Of the 590,000 deaths from cancer in the United States each year, at least 90,000 are thought to be overweight and obesity related, which increases your risk from at least 13 different types of cancer, including: breast, colon, multiple myeloma, kidney, prostate, rectum, ovaries, uterus, esophagus, gallbladder, endometrium, thyroid and liver.
Obesity related cancers make up 40 percent of all cancer diagnosis; in a 2014 study on cancer patients, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that 630,000 Americans had a type of cancer associated with being overweight or obese. Living a Standard American Lifestyle of physical inactivity, inadequate sleep, and poor diet leads to an increased level of fat storage on the body and puts individuals at greater risk of chronic inflammation, which may weaken the immune system and cause foreign pathogens to enter the body and interrupt the biological process from functioning properly.
Studies on obese cancer patients show that fat adipose tissue on the body may secrete hormones that contribute to cancer tumor growth. When your body is carrying large amounts of mass in fat adipose tissue, the levels of the hormone leptin increase in the bloodstream. Leptin is produced in fat cells and is the hormone responsible for telling your brain how high your body fat levels are; in overweight and obese people, however, leptin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so instead of your body and brain telling you that you are full and satiated and to reduce appetite, you will continue to eat.
Cost of Obesity
The United States spends the most on healthcare compared to 32 other modern, industrialized, Western nations, but is the only one to lack universal coverage and continues to fall behind on life expectancy and effectiveness of medical treatments. The decrease in life expectancy over the past few years is partly due to opioid and alcohol abuse as well as from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other obesity related diseases.
The United States spends $190 billion every year on obesity related illness, with $14 billion going directly towards childhood obesity treatment and medication; one in every five healthcare dollars (21%) go towards treating an obesity related illness with much of the obesity related healthcare costs coming from taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid. If obesity epidemic continues at the current rate, medical costs and treatment of subsequent illnesses and diseases could increase by an additional $48 to $66 billion by 2030, which will put the U.S. economy under further strain as smaller amounts of money will be available to cover the costs of industries that require greater amounts of taxpayer funding.
Like the battle to protect the planet from climate change and the corporations that taxpayers subsidize; the failed war on drugs and private prison industrial complex; the expensive medical and pharmaceutical industry; and the many other wasteful costs and preventable spending that the American economy sacrifices every year for the sake of convenience, cultural habits, and old traditions, the obesity epidemic represents an additional factor in determining the social fitness of American culture and the likelihood of survival as a modern, industrialized nation.
As the burden of obesity becomes larger and more ubiquitous across the country, greater amounts of tax dollars will go towards funding weight loss medication and treatments and obesity related illness; the United States spends between $147 and $210 billion every year on direct (inpatient and outpatient health services, including: surgery, lab tests, drug treatment) and indirect (missed work days, decreased productivity, insurance costs, lost wages) obesity related medical care costs.
Higher Medical Costs For Obese and Overweight Individuals
When looking into the financial burden of those that are directly affected by overweight and obesity, the struggle to stay healthy and economically stable becomes clear; studies show that the medical cost for individuals with obesity are estimated to be $1429 higher each year than for those of average weight (42% higher). Obese patients spend 46 percent more on impatient care; 27 percent more on outpatient care; and 80 percent more on medication compared with those of lower weight.
In overweight and obese middle-aged men, treating the five obesity related conditions of stroke, hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol result in $9,000 to $17,000 higher medical costs annually, which amounts to $190,657 more on lifetime healthcare expenses; obese women spend $223,629 more on lifetime health care expenses. When looking into economic and worker productivity, the greater a persons BMI, the higher the number of sick days and medical claims. Obesity related missed work days cost the U.S. economy $4.3 billion a year in indirect expenses and lower worker productivity by $506 per employee each year, a number that continues to increase as more individuals struggle to fight off the illnesses and diseases of a weaker immune system.
The typical short-term outlook of reality by many Americans view the Standard American Diet and Lifestyle as faster and cheaper than putting in the time to exercise the body and provide the mind with the recommended amount of sleep; but as time passes and body fat increases in the body, individuals will be forced to call out of work for obesity related illness and required to pay larger medical bills for medications, treatments, and visits to the doctor. In order to limit the amount of time and money directed at obesity, the United States must invest in nutrition education, encourage physical activity, and provide lower-income families and communities with greater opportunities for living a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.
Our current healthcare system treats diseases after they happen when we need a system that prevents diseases before they ever occur. This is a profit motivated system rather than a healthcare system. If the United States continues to treat the symptoms of obesity rather than the root cause and the suffering behind the problem, then the results will be the same as our past failures; if the United States continues to commit the same mistakes of allowing corporations and the medical industry to control and dictate the direction of the country without learning and growing from their failure and exploitative behavior, then the results will be the same. Until Americans take more initiative and personal responsibility for their daily actions and lifestyle, greater amounts of money, and more personal and societal suffering will have to be endured before the country figures out that their health and happiness is in direct proportion to their overall wellbeing and the internal state of their mind and body.
Subsidies for Food
Similar to the subsidies that American taxpayers provide to the fossil fuel corporations that continue to destroy the planet for their own financial gain and for our own ecological destruction, agricultural subsidies for crops and food that directly contribute to the obesity epidemic are equally absurd and self-destructive considering the unhealthy habits of the Standard American Lifestyle. Between 1995-2010, $170 billion taxpayer dollars went directly towards funding seven agricultural subsidies that contribute to the obesity problem: Corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, dairy, livestock. These foods are associated with the refined grains, dairy products, corn sweeteners, processed and packaged foods of the Standard American Diet that are directly attributed to a higher BMI and higher cholesterol. The higher the amount of taxpayer subsidies on unhealthy agricultural products, the lower the price on the product for American consumers to purchase foods that contribute to obesity. Americans are essentially subsidizing their own obesity epidemic and suffering from the economic burden of higher prices on medication and medical treatment.
As the decades pass, and America becomes more ethnically diverse, the economic gap between rich and poor continues to expand, leaving many minorities and lower-income communities struggling to get by with stagnant and lower wages than past economic income and higher prices on food, housing and the general inflation of prices across the country. Inflation means the increase in prices of goods and services in the United States and the loss of purchasing power and value of money due to the greater amount of dollars in circulation.
Middle, lower-income, and minority communities suffer the most from inflation and the recent political corruption and manipulation of tax laws that direct greater sums of money to the wealthiest American corporations and individuals through: Offshore tax havens and loopholes in the tax system that allow American corporations and individuals to store money in other countries to avoid paying taxes in the United States; corporations lobbying the government to receive favorable laws and policies; bribes disguised as donations to politicians; middle and lower-income individuals working longer hours with lower wages to purchase higher priced goods and services; cuts to social security benefits; lower quality job opportunities for a greater number of individuals looking for work; and more expensive medical service to treat illnesses and diseases that continue to increase as more individuals fall into the habits and patterns of the Standard American Diet and Lifestyle.
CDC Report on Prevalence of Obesity:
- Mexican Americans: 47%
- African Americans: 46.8%
- Whites: 37.9%
- Asian Americans: 12.7%
The socioeconomic factors that contribute to the prevalence of obesity in the United States increase in lower-income and minority communities that find themselves in food insecure areas of the country with limited-to-no availability of healthy foods near their homes. Fifty-million Americans, including 16.7 million children, experience some form of food insecurity where safe and nutritious food is displaced by convenient stores, fast food restaurants, gas stations and liquor stores that provide no healthy food options.
Low-income neighborhoods are twice as likely to have fast food nearby as wealthier communities, which leads to a 33 percent higher fast food consumption by African-Americans compared to white Americans. A study by the Food Research and Action Center of 66,000 American adults found that those that live within food insecure areas are 32 percent more likely to be obese than those in areas where there are plenty of healthy food options. Some low-income and minority communities are in locations where it is dangerous to play outside, which contributes to the likelihood that African and Mexican Americans will become overweight for lack of safe areas to play and exercise.
Socioeconomic Factors in Obesity:
- Women have a higher obesity rate than men.
- Men and women with college degrees had a lower obesity levels than those with high school diploma or less. In general, less education means higher probability of obesity.
- Rural areas have a higher obesity rate than urban areas.
- Latino and African-Americans have 20 percent higher obesity rates than whites Americans.
In the past, obesity was seen as a sign of opulence for those with enough time for leisure and comfort; but the general progression and prevalence of high-fat, high-sodium, and high-sugar foods; fast, frozen, and processed food; coupled with less time to prepare healthy food and less energy to exercise in the modern era, reverses the socioeconomic factors for obesity and places the burden on lower-income families and communities that rely on unhealthy foods in dangerous neighborhoods to survive. The Department of Health and Human Services found that 45 percent of children living in poverty are overweight or obese. Low income families consume foods that are cheaper with a higher density of calories: Fast foods, sodas and sugar drinks, high-sugar, fat, and sodium. When an advanced society like the United States demands more time, energy and money to survive, but requires less time, energy and money to eat unhealthy, there will inevitably be a trend by less educated and poorer individuals towards the unhealthy and sedentary American lifestyle as a matter of course and as the rational and logical decision in order to survive. Part 3