Americans missing important messages about obesity
You can’t open a newspaper, watch television or go on the web without hearing how obesity, unhealthy eating and inactivity are recipes for chronic diseases. But a recent survey suggests that somehow Americans are still missing much of the obesity message.
The survey, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that seven in 10 Americans can easily identify heart disease and diabetes as health risks related to obesity. But few realize other conditions including arthritis, infertility, sleep apnea and even cancer are tied to excess weight. About one-quarter of people think it’s possible for someone to be very overweight and still healthy.
But a 2012 study showed links to cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, uterus and kidney are indeed tied to obesity—with researchers specifically noting that excess weight triggers a production of hormones that can play a role in cancer growth. Researchers also said being overweight can make it much harder for clinicians to spot tumors early and treat them.
Excessive weight can also take a big toll on your joints, especially the knees. Recent research shows that rates of knee replacement surgeries have nearly doubled for patients 65 and older over the past 20 years, driven in part by increasing obesity rates.
Studies also show that if you are overweight, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea and asthma.
Health experts believe that if people are more informed about the myriad of ways obesity affects health, they could be more motivated to start living healthier lifestyles. One way of helping to improve these stats, experts suggest, is that patients and clinicians begin to develop a more open and honest dialogue about obesity and weight concerns.
According to the survey, only 52 percent said they’ve even discussed the health risks of being overweight with a doctor. Definitely some “food for thought” for the New Year.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.