Local doc says deaths from obesity complications could one day exceed those from smoking.
In recent years, Americans have had problems with their waistlines. But the premier physicians group in the country says it's much more serious than most people believe. Recently, the American Medical Association declared that obesity is a disease, and not just a life style problem. The AMA says it requires a range of medical interventions.
"It's not a new problem, but it's becoming more prevalent in our society," says Dr. John Vitariello, a local cardiologist and President of the Frederick County Medical Society.
Obesity, as opposed to being just overweight, is defined as a body mass index, ratio of height over weight. People who have a BMI between 18.5 to 24.9 are considered at normal weight, according to the body mass index. Dr. Vitariello says right now, it's estimated that 40% of Americans are obese, and 25% are overweight. "The incidents of obesity is 54% for adults, and about 32% for adolescents," he says. "Over the last decade, we've doubled our obesity rate because, again, we have a successful society and we tend to increase our calories."
Obesity leads to a lot of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, and physicians believe it could get worse over the next several years, says Dr. Vitariello. "If you look at the incidents of obesity, and you look at the impact, there are about 400 to 500 deaths annually directly from obesity. They feel in the next decade, the causation of death from obesity will exceed tobacco smoking."
He also says the health costs of obesity is about $117-billion, which is 11% to 12% of entire national health care budget. "The indirect costs is about $179-billion," says Dr. Vitariello.
He says obesity can lead to higher levels of LDL or bad cholesterol, and lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. "And the other thing you develop is something called insulin-resistant diabetes," Dr. Viteriello says. "It means your sugar levels in the morning exceed 100. So when you have lot of fat tissue, and your body produces insulin, the fat tissue absorbs the insulin, and does not go to the muscles and other heart cells to make them work better."
A lot of the problem is due to diet. Dr. Vitariello says too many Americans are eating processed foods, such as those served at fast food restaurants. "It's cheaper to buy a hamburger with French fries than it is to get a chicken sandwich at a local fast food place, and about 30% of Americans eat fast food," he says.
One way to help reduce the waistline and avoid complications from obesity is to change your diet by adding more fruits and vegetables, and reducing the amount of processed foods. "So if you look at your plate, half of your plate should be vegetables, and half should be a protein. And try to limit your carbohydrates. Avoid chips, avoid white bread, white rice, white potatoes. There's proteins in those that increase obesity," he says.
And limit the amount of sweets in your diet, such as cookies, cakes and candies because it increases insulin in your body. "There's nothing good about those food products," Dr. Vitariello says. "They're a sometimes treat, like your birthday, after church, you have a big event. That's great. Limit those products. Try to put some fruit in your stomach; try to get some berries and nuts." He recommends raw almonds and walnuts.
In addition, try to pencil in some exercise, says Dr. Vitariello. He says the best form of exercise is walking. "So if you simply walk 15 to 20-minutes a day, move around your house or your office, that is a cumulative activity which helps the heart," he says.
He also says incorporate some of the Mediterranean Diet into your food choices, by adding a lot of olive oil as well as nuts. Experts have said that this diet can help reduce heart disease, metabolic syndrome, some types of cancer, obesity, type-two diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and lead to a longer lifespan.