America is currently facing a crisis that is one of the most prevalent health-related issues in this country’s history: obesity. According to Drs. Massetti, Dietz, and Richardson in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the effects of obesity stretch far past simply an expanding waistline; there are serious ramifications for your health, life, and even your mortality rate if you are overweight or obese. In this article, we will discuss the scary facts behind obesity, as well as what can be done to curb this epidemic.
The statistics behind the weight issue in America are staggering. Obesity has been on the rise in America for over fifty years. That’s five whole decades of this problem occurring unceasingly. Right now, over two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of adolescents and children are either overweight or obese. Kids who are obese as children have an increased risk of adulthood obesity, which means that their risk for serious health problems is compounded.
Obesity also takes a chunk out of the taxpayers’ wallet. Healthcare costs are astronomical, and obesity plays a large role in that. Thousands have studies have been conducted and they all, for the most part, say the same thing: this situation is dire.
Increased Cancer Risk
What you may not know is that obesity leads to an increased cancer risk. Over one thousand studies found evidence that sufficiently indicated a link between obesity and thirteen types of cancers. Cancers of the colon, rectum, and gastric cardia, as well as liver, pancreas, kidney, ovary, gallbladder, corpus uteri, and thyroid cancers all have links to obesity. Postmenopausal breast cancer in women, multiple myeloma, and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are all related to obesity. These horrific illnesses, which lead to so many deaths per year, all have roots in an unhealthy weight. The statistics can prove that as well.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been highly focused on this crisis. The CDC assessed the trend between obesity and cancer and found that over 630,000 people were diagnosed in 2014 as having a cancer linked to being overweight or obese. This number comprises over 55% of all cancers in women and 24% of cancers among men. Nearly half of all cancer affecting individuals under the age of 65 are associated with an unhealthy weight.
These cancers were also affecting young people at higher and higher rates. The toll taken by being overweight and obese is also wreaking havoc for people earlier in their lives. Young adults and adolescents are feeling the damage caused by weight problems at a young age.
What Can Smoking Teach Us?
The idea that smoking might actually be able to teach us something about obesity seems contradictory, but it actually isn’t. A brief history lesson explains why. In 1964, the surgeon general released a report about the severe health consequences associated with smoking. Clinicians took action, counseling patients to avoid tobacco, referring patients to programs to help them quit, and aiding them in quitting by giving information on methods to help deal with tobacco cravings.
This hands-on, full-out approach worked. Cigarette smoking has hit an all-time low, as fewer and fewer people smoke. This type of approach is necessary to halt America’s obesity problem.
Clinical Intervention: A Concept
Drs. Massetti, Dietz, and Richardson, in their JAMA article, stated that intensive behavioral intervention is necessary in order to curb this obesity epidemic. Screening for obesity by measuring patients’ weight, height, and BMI provide an effective starting point for determining what to do next. Tracking patients’ progress over time is another effective way for physicians to handle this problem. Physicians should regularly asses their patients’ BMI to make sure that they are on the right track.
Behavioral modification can be used to curb the compulsive, poor eating habits that so often lead to obesity. Through this behavioral counseling, sustainable weight loss can be achieved. The stigma behind obesity contributes to the epidemic, as clinicians may feel uncomfortable with the topic. But, in order to face the problem, it must be identified through these interactions. Physicians need to be trained to make referrals to patients for behavioral counseling, and these counseling programs need to be available throughout the community, with no gaps in coverage. (Medicare has actually covered behavioral counseling sessions in primary care settings for the purpose of weight loss, though this is not widely known).
The bottom line is that America is currently facing a crisis, and it will not get better unless the problem is identified and acknowledged. Obesity is strongly linked to cancer, and the trend is continuing to worsen. However, there is hope on the horizon with the advent of behavior modification and intervention counseling, which is a new way to approach solving the obesity epidemic.
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