Polls show many Americans are unaware of some dangers linked to being overweight. Heart disease & diabetes get all the attention; but what about the many other ways obesity can damage your health?
Carrying too many pounds may lead to or worsen some types of cancer, arthritis, sleep apnea, even infertility. But a new poll suggests few Americans realize the links.
Only about one-quarter of people think it's possible for someone to be very over weight & still healthy, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Ask about the most serious consequences; and more than 7 in 10 Americans can correctly tick off diabetes & heart disease. Heart disease is the nation's leading killer, and diabetes & obesity are twin epidemics, as rates of both have climbed in recent years.
The other consequences aren't so well known. "People are often shocked to hear how far-reaching the effects of obesity are," said Jennifer Dimitriou, a bariatric dietitian at New York's Montefiore Medical Center. Only 7% of people surveyed mentioned cancer, although doctors long have known that fat increases the risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast, prostate, uterus and certain other sites. Plus, being overweight can make it harder to spot tumors early and to treat them.
Then there's the toll on your joints, especially the knees. About 15% of people know obesity can contribute to arthritis. Its a vicious cycle as the joints pain then makes it harder to exercise and shed pounds.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and strokes were fairly low on the list. Infertility was not mentioned and 5% put respiratory problems on the list. Studies show people who are overweight are at increased risk of asthma & sleep apnea, and that dropping pounds can help improve their symptoms.
Dimitriou said that knowing more about the myriad ways obesity affects health could help motivate people to get more active and eat better before full-blown disease strikes.
But only 52% of those surveyed said they've discussed the health risks of being overweight with a doctor. In another complication, the AP-NORC Center survey found that about half of people think their weight is just about right, and only 12% of parents think their child is overweight. That's even though government figures show two thirds of U.S. adults, and one-third of children and teens, are either overweight or obese.
U~T San Diego
8 January 2013