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Over one-third of Americans are now obese, prevent with these tips

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Over one-third of Americans are now obese

More than one-third of Americans are now obese, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those, approximately 17 percent are American children and adolescents between the ages of 1 to 19, the CDC report says.

As a result, everyone from the nation’s First Lady Michele Obama to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have launched campaigns in an effort to wage war on the Battle of the Bulge.

Meanwhile, doctors across the country are examining overweight patients for various risk factors and labeling them as having metabolic syndrome – a serious health condition for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as diabetes and stroke.

According to the American Heart Association, metabolic syndrome affects around 35 percent of adults and increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and other diseases related to fatty deposits building up in their arterial walls, but one doctor thinks metabolic syndrome is a misnomer.

Dr. Neil Ravin, an endocrinologist and director of the Center for Diabetes & Endocrinology at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, says metabolic syndrome "a bogus term and not a diagnosis".

"This has been called Syndrome X or metabolic syndrome, and many other names, but this is just a way of pining a name on a series of events which occur when people sit down, lie down and do not exercise," Ravin said.

The term "metabolic" refers to the biochemical processes involved in the body's normal functioning, according to the National Institutes of Health, which also says that metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease in the future.

Risk factors are traits, conditions, or habits that increase your chance of developing a disease. The risk of having metabolic syndrome is closely linked to overweight and obesity and a lack of physical activity. Insulin resistance also may increase your risk for metabolic syndrome.

"If a person has one or more of these conditions, the physician can use 'metabolic syndrome' as a code for insurance purposes," Ravin said. "What really happens is that people are overweight and don't exercise and their insulin receptors decline in function." As a result of this decline, blood sugar and blood fats increase – and blood vessels deteriorate, which causes an increase in blood pressure that increases belly fat.

Using the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings as an example of what can be done to fight this decline, Ravin said that those runners were doing exactly what more of us should be doing.

"They were pushing themselves physically, training in a systematic, daily way, which is the best thing they could be doing for that temple which is their bodies," he said.

When a person gains a significant amount of weight, insulin receptors no longer function as well and blood sugar spikes, ultimately resulting in a deterioration of the blood vessels and nerves.

"Eyes, kidneys and genital organs start to undergo a sort of metabolic 'rot' and coronary arteries, the arteries which carry blood to the heart muscle, are particularly vulnerable and critical as changes occur in the lining of these blood vessels,” Ravin said. "This all happens silently, no symptoms, until the big symptom – the chest pain of heart attack."

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So how can metabolic syndrome be prevented to fight obesity?

Healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to prevent metabolic syndrome, with maintaining a healthy weight being an important one. Other than weighing yourself on a scale, you can find out if you're at a healthy weight using your waist measurement and body mass index (BMI).

The National Institutes of Health offers the following tips for maintaining a healthy weight and for measuring your waist for body fat, which is linked to your risk for heart disease and other diseases:

To measure your waste:

1. Stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones.

2. Measure your waist just after you breathe out.

3. Make sure the tape is snug but doesn't squeeze the flesh.

A waist measurement of less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men is the goal for preventing metabolic syndrome; it's also the goal when treating metabolic syndrome.

BMI measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. A BMI of less than 25 is the goal for preventing metabolic syndrome; it's also the goal when treating metabolic syndrome.

To figure out your BMI, you can use the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's online calculator by clicking here or your doctor can help you.

To maintain a healthy weight:

1. Follow a heart healthy diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas – and try not to overeat.

2. Follow a healthy diet that is low in sodium (salt), added sugars, solid fats (saturated fat and trans fatty acids), and refined grains that come from processing whole grains, which results in a loss of nutrients (such as dietary fiber).

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; NCHS Data Brief, No. 114 (February 2013), Fryar CD, Ervin RB. Caloric intake from fast food among adults: United States, 2007–2010. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.