Health Problems In An Overweight Friend


When Being Overweight Is a Health Problem

Health Problems In An Overweight Friend

In our looks-obsessed society, lots of people think that being overweight is an appearance issue. But being overweight is actually a medical concern because it can seriously affect a person's health.

Diabetes and heart disease are health problems that can stem from being overweight. Being overweight can also affect a person's joints, breathing, sleep, mood, and energy levels. So being overweight can affect a person's entire quality of life.

Defining Overweight

When people eat more calories than they use, their bodies store the extra calories as fat.

A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not a health risk for most people. But when people keep up a pattern of eating more calories than they burn, more and more fat builds up in their bodies.

Eventually, the body gets to a point where the amount of body fat can harm a person's health. Doctors use the terms “overweight” or “obese” to tell if someone has a greater chance of developing weight-related health problems.

As you've probably heard, more people are overweight today than ever before. The “obesity epidemic” affects kids and teens as well as adults. So younger people are now getting health problems that used to affect only adults, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

Why Do People Become Overweight?

Obesity tends to run in families. Some people have a tendency to gain weight more easily than others. Although genes strongly influence body type and size, the environment also plays a role.

People today are gaining weight because of unhealthy food choices ( fast food) and family habits ( eating in front of the TV instead of around a table). High-calorie, low-nutrient snacks and beverages, bigger portions of food, and less-active lifestyles are all contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Sometimes people turn to food for emotional reasons, such as when they feel upset, anxious, sad, stressed out, or even bored. When this happens, they often eat more than they need.

Measuring Weight

Figuring out if a teen is overweight is a little more complicated than it is for adults. That's because teens are still growing and developing.

Doctors and other health care professionals use a measurement called body mass index (BMI) to tell if someone is overweight.

The doctor calculates BMI using a person's height and weight, and then plots that number on a chart. There are different charts for girls or guys. BMI estimates how much body fat the person has.

Because muscle weighs more than fat, a muscular person can have a high BMI, but not too much body fat. wise, it's possible for someone to have a low or ideal BMI but still have too much body fat.

You may get a BMI report from school, but the best way to understand BMI is to talk to your doctor.

Health Problems of Being Overweight

Obesity is bad news for both body and mind. Not only can it make someone feel tired and uncomfortable, carrying extra weight puts added stress on the body, especially the bones and joints of the legs. Kids and teens who are overweight are more ly to develop diabetes and other health problems. And overweight adults have a higher chance of getting heart disease.

Weight-related health problems include:

Asthma. Obesity increases the chance of having asthma. Breathing problems related to weight can make it harder to keep up with friends, play sports, or just walk from class to class.

Sleep apnea. This condition (where a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep) is a serious problem for many overweight kids and adults. Sleep apnea can leave people feeling tired and affect their ability to concentrate and learn. It also may lead to heart problems.

High blood pressure. When blood pressure is high, the heart has to work harder. If the problem continues for a long time, high blood pressure can damage the heart and arteries. 

High cholesterol. Abnormal blood lipid levels, including high cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels, increase the chances of having a heart attack or stroke when a person gets older.

Gallstones. A buildup of bile that hardens in the gallbladder forms gallstones. These can be painful and require surgery.

Fatty liver. If fat builds up in the liver, it can cause , scarring, and permanent liver damage.

Joint and muscle pain. Wear and tear on the joints from carrying extra weight may lead to arthritis in adulthood.

Slipped capital femoral epiphyses (SCFE). SCFE is a painful hip problem that requires immediate attention and surgery to prevent further damage to the joint.

Pseudotumor cerebri. This is a rare cause of severe headaches in obese teens and adults. There is no tumor, but pressure builds in the brain. Besides headaches, symptoms may include vomiting, double vision, and other vision problems.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Although it's normal for girls to have some testosterone (the male hormone), girls with PCOS have higher testosterone levels in the blood. They also may have irregular periods, too much hair growth, and bad acne. 

Insulin resistance and diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that lowers the level of (a type of sugar) in the blood. When there is too must body fat, is less effective at getting glucose, the body's main source of energy, into cells. The body then needs more insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar level. For some overweight teens, progresses to diabetes (high blood sugar).

Depression. People who are obese are more ly to be depressed and have lower self-esteem.

Luckily, it's never too late to make changes that can help control weight gain and the health problems it causes. Those changes don't have to be big.

For a start, make a plan to cut back on sugary beverages, control portions, and get more exercise, even if it's just 5–10 minutes a day. Build your way up to big changes by making a series of small ones.

And don't be afraid to ask for help!

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The Health Benefits of Losing Weight

Health Problems In An Overweight Friend

Why lose weight? For many people losing weight is purely about looking good.

What is usually reported in the news are the health problems associated with being overweight or obese. It may seem obvious why we should lose weight but many people still do not realise that being overweight really is unhealthy in many ways.

This article explains the main health problems associated with being overweight and how losing weight improves your health.

While advancements are being made in all areas of medical science we are still facing an ever-growing healthy crisis – the obesity epidemic.

The latest figures suggested that 1 in 4 adults are now obese and it is predicted that by 2030 half of all adults will be obese. The increase in cases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, strokes and other health problems is ly to cost the USA around $48-66 billion a year and the UK £1.9-2 billion a year alone.

It is no surprise that governments are keen to tackle the obesity problem. However, you really should not wait for governments to intervene because obesity will very ly seriously affect your own life very soon.

We first commented on overweightedness as a health problem in our article Start Losing Weight Today With Our Diet and Exercise Advice. We introduced that guide by explaining that central obesity is bad for you.

What is central obesity?

Central obesity refers to visceral fat which is just one type of weight issue. Visceral fat is the fat which only accumulates in the central region of the body, namely and the stomach around the internal organs.

Often it is referred to as middle-age spread, a spare tyre or muffin top. These terms do not do it justice really, it is much more dangerous to health than these friendly terms suggest.

Visceral fat

Visceral fat is the worse type of fat in terms of health, however other types and locations of fat provide indicators of poor health, such as excessive fat on the neck.

Some reports have indicated that excessive fat in other parts of the body, such as on the thighs, is not always bad for health. It is natural for women to accumulate extra subcutaneous fat on their thighs, buttocks and hips.

Although this is not too unhealthy it can often mask additional visceral fat in the abdominal region.

Being Overweight Reduces Quality of Life

In 2004 being overweight and physically inactive was ranked the 3rd disease risk factor that leads to a reduction in the quality of life and its contribution to global disease.

Being overweight contributes to 7.14 million deaths each year and on average overweight people live 4.4 years less and have a reduced quality of life due to reduced mobility and ill-health during this time (Rodgers et al, 2004).

Heart Disease

The biggest cause of death in the western world is still heart disease and one of the major causes of heart disease is a combination of poor diet and lack of exercise.

Over time a diet high in saturated fat damages the arteries which leads to heart disease. Also, diets high in salt contribute to increased risk resulting from prolonged high blood pressure.

Heart disease is a big problem because many other factors increase risk such as smoking, heavy drinking and stress.

Although a lot of work has been done in recent decades to improve awareness of the risks of these activities obesity continues to rise due to the increasing dominance of the “obesogenic environment” in which many of us now live.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (T2) is the fastest growing disease in the western world. 65% of people who develop T2 diabetes develop will develop fatal heart disease as a result.

Women seem to lose all of their natural ability to combat heart disease once they develop T2 diabetes too (Grundy et al, 1999).

Also, research has shown that obese women (BMI over 30) are 90 times more ly to develop T2 diabetes than women of a healthy weight (Anderson el al, 2003).

In addition to increase risk of heart disease you are 20 times more ly to lose your sight, at increased risk of stroke (for every 3 people who have a stroke 1 will die and another will be paralysed), increase risk of developing kidney disease as well as other neural problems (diabetic neuropathy) such as sensory loss and impotence.


It is thought that many forms of cancer are caused by a combination of poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise.

Research carried out by Prof. Rosalie David in 2010 found that there are very few examples of cancer developing in mummified remains in Egypt even though ancient Egyptians tended to live longer than average lives.

The conclusion was the most forms of cancer are triggered by lifestyle factors such as diet and weight. Read our report Are You Protecting Yourself Against Cancer? for more information on this study.

Increased Quality of Life

Even if you are lucky to escape the serious health problems associated with being overweight or obese you may still suffer from reduced mobility later in life. As we grow older it is natural for our bodies to grow weaker.

If your muscle mass wanes and fat accumulates it becomes harder to be active and this can quickly reduce your quality of life.

Many obese people cope well for years and then one small fall or twisted ankle makes them practically disabled as they find it very hard to ever recover from the injuries. It really is a sad state of affairs where people are literally eating their way to a life of misery and an early grave.

“Un other major causes of preventable death and disability, such as tobacco use, injuries, and infectious diseases, there are no exemplar populations in which the obesity epidemic has been reversed by public health measures.” Swinburn et al, 2011.

This really drives home the problem that we are all facing as a society and as individuals – at the moment there is no magic cure for obesity. There are no drugs that can be taken to safely wean people off food or treatments to help people to burn off excessive fat.

The only long-term, sustainable and healthy solution is to exercise more and eat a healthy diet. You literally have to take your life into your own hands. The advantages and health benefits of losing weight far outweigh any cost in terms of time and money that is required to get yourself in shape.

The single most important health benefit of losing weight is getting your life back again and keeping it.

Mental and Physical Health Affected by Weight Problems

Being overweight or obese results in more than just physical discomfort. There is now clear evidence that being overweight causes many serious health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems as well as mental health problems.

In fact, few people consider the mental health problems associated with weight issues. Many people become depressed and see their self-esteem plummet after putting on weight.

Depression can easily send a person into a downward spiral where they find themselves in a typical Catch 22 situation – overweight because they are depressed with their life, and depressed because they are too overweight to do anything.

Although many people do not talk about these issues, it is now thought that depression is quite common amongst people that have been suffering from weight problems for many years.

Losing weight is really more a battle of the mind than a physical challenge. The theory of weight loss is actually strikingly simple – eat less food than your body needs. However, implementing that theory and actually sticking to it for the long term are the real challenges.

This is where weight loss communities, both online such as MotleyHealth, and offline communities such as weight loss support groups, can really help. Also, getting support from friends and family is very important when you are trying to lose weight.

We actually raised this in our weight loss action plan. Also research has shown in the past that exercising and dieting with a friend is actually very effective at helping you to stay on track.

One very important tip for anyone that wants to lose weight and get back in shape – exercise releases endorphins, the feel good gene.

This directly combats depression. People who exercise often are actually less ly to suffer from depression. So one way to reverse many years of inactivity and weight gain is to force yourself back into exercise and fitness.

Now is a good time to start exercising. What are you waiting for?


  • “Distribution of Major Health Risks: Findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study” by Anthony Rodgers, Majid Ezzati, Stephen Vander Hoorn, Alan D. Lopez, Ruey-Bin Lin1, Christopher J. L. Murray (2004) PLoS Med1(1): e27. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010027.
  • “Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association” by Scott M. Grundy, Ivor J. Benjamin, Gregory L. Burke, Alan Chait, Robert H. Eckel, Barbara V. Howard, William Mitch, Sidney C. Smith, James R. Sowers. American Heart Association. 1999; 100: 1134-1146 doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.100.10.1134
  • “Importance of Weight Management in Type 2 Diabetes: Review with Meta-analysis of Clinical Studies” by James W. Anderson, Cyril W.C. Kendall and David J.A. Jenkins. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. October 2003 vol. 22 no. 5 331-339.
  • “Health and economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK” by Y Claire Wang, Prof Klim McPherson, Tim Marsh, Steven L Gortmaker, Martin Brown. The Lancet, Volume 378, Issue 9793, Pages 815 – 825, 27 August 2011. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60814-3
  • “The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments” by Prof Boyd A Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Kevin D Hall, Prof Klim McPherson, Prof Diane T Finegood, Marjory L Moodie, Prof Steven L Gortmaker. The Lancet, Volume 378, Issue 9793, Pages 804 – 814, 27 August 2011. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60813-1
  • “Waist Circumference and All-Cause Mortality in a Large US Cohort” by, Eric J. Jacobs, PhD; Christina C. Newton, MSPH; Yiting Wang, PhD; Alpa V. Patel, PhD; Marjorie L. McCullough, ScD; Peter T. Campbell, PhD; Michael J. Thun, MD; Susan M. Gapstur, PhD. Published in Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(15):1293-1301. doi: 10.1001 / archinternmed.2010.201

Photo: “Beach Man” by Kyle May

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10 Common Health Problems That Can Be Prevented with the Right Lifestyle Choices

Health Problems In An Overweight Friend

Many common health problems are avoidable with effort and lifestyle makeovers. Life Advancer highlights a few of these issues and shares what we can do to keep them from surfacing.

Common Health Problems: Lifestyle Factors that Affect Health and Well-Being

Modern living has affected our health states, and not for the better. The way we live our lives can explain common health problems.

1. Obesity and Unhealthy Eating

First of all, unhealthy changes in our eating habits and physical activity have resulted in the world population becoming obese. The National Health Survey showed that 55% of females were either overweight or obese.

Unhealthy eating also causes diseases diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, or uterine cancer. The National Health Survey also found that females were more ly to form healthy eating habits than males.

2. Physical Inactivity

Physical activity stops all kinds of chronic diseases. It also promotes a healthy weight and sound mental health.

Women are less active than men. Girls are less active than boys because of social and environmental factors. Caring responsibilities, lower socio-economic status, concerns about personal safety, and poor body image discourage people from exercising. Many women comment that the lack of time causes them to become physically inactive.

3. Smoking

The news that smoking kills is old but relevant. Tobacco use causes stroke, heart disease, cancers, and other ailments.

Women tend to smoke more than men. They are more ly to light up because of stress, especially if they are subject to abuse. Women of lower socio-economic status have a greater tendency to smoke than their peers.

4. Alcohol Consumption

Consuming too much alcohol can lead to liver cirrhosis and colorectal cancer. Generally, women drink less alcohol than men. That said, they are at higher risk of alcohol abuse. Social factors have led to an increase in alcohol consumption.

Furthermore, drinking while pregnant leads to the poor health of both mothers and babies. Research has also shown that it leads to impaired learning ability and cognitive inhibition.

1. Heart Disease

First of all, a stressed-up, Type A personality has a higher risk of Coronary diseases than others. Stress inhibits blood flow and releases triglycerides into the blood. It also increases a person’s tendency to smoke. Doctors suggest that emotional stress can trigger heart problems.

2. Asthma

Smoking and stress also lead to Asthmatic attacks. A mum’s stress may lead to their babies developing Asthma. Babies born to moms who smoke or smoked during pregnancy may be prone to Asthmatic attacks.

3. Obesity

Everyone knows that poor portion control can lead to obesity. What fewer people know is that stress can cause fat to store on the hips because it causes the body to produce the hormone, Cortisol. It also increases the fat in the abdominal area.

4. Diabetes

Excessive eating and alcohol consumption leads to diabetes. These habits raise the glucose levels of people with Type 2 diabetes.

5. Headaches

People consider stress one of the most common triggers for headaches and migraines. This research proves what we knew all along – that overwork, unemployment, relationship problems, and life changes can all lead to migraines.

6. Depression

Medical professionals make a suggestion that won’t surprise -that stress causes depression levels to rise. It leads to an overactivation of the stress-response mechanism of the body. Susceptible patients may become depressed if it doesn’t stop.

7. Gastrointestinal Issues

Digestive problems are a result of poor health habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and overwork. They cause or even worsen ulcers. Chronic heartburn is a result of stress.

8. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alcohol, nicotine, and stress can cause brain lesions to form, triggering the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers have recently discovered connections between the two.

9. Aging too Quickly

This fact probably comes as no surprise, but stress can make a person age faster than he or she should. Studies on highly-stressed mothers showed that undue emotional pressure affects the telomere, a particular part of the female chromosome. It speeds up the aging process by about 17 years.

10. Premature Death

Research confirms what people have thought all along – stress contributes to early death. A study on elderly caregivers showed that they had a 63% higher rate of death than their peers who were not.

Little Lifestyle Changes that Deal with Common Health Problems

We balk when someone says that we have to make lifestyle changes to improve our health. Pushing ourselves to exercise twice daily or give up our cigarettes abruptly is a tall order.

But lifestyle changes don’t have to be drastic. The little things we do will make small, but significant improvements to our well-being.

1. Overhaul our refrigerators

First of all, we can give our iceboxes makeovers. We should fill them up with ingredients for salads instead of processed ham. Throwing away takeout containers and putting in yogurt is possible. Overhauling our fridges will encourage us to make healthy choices.

2. Make Online Purchases and reading food labels

We can purchase our groceries online instead of at supermarkets. Going to them often leads to impulse buying. Many of us don’t read food labels and end up with unhealthy tidbits or canned food in our carts. Making online purchases will afford us the time to do so.

3. The Seven-Minute Workout

We all know that exercise puts us on the path to well-being, but few of us have a lot of time to commit to it. Work, children, and our social lives make working out difficult.

Workout applications the Seven Minute Workout are helpful. They enable us to exercise different muscle groups in just a few minutes.

4. Develop a Sleep Schedule

Establish a sleeping pattern and keep to it. Go to bed and wake up at the same times daily. Our minds will be focused and sharp when we are well-rested.

Another tip related to conforming to healthy sleep patterns is to wake up before others do. Rising before the rest of the family will reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by routines and activities.

5. Stay on top of stress

Eliminating stress isn’t possible, but there are ways to minimize it. Apps Trello will allow you to create to-do lists quickly, while calendars Google Calendar enable you to keep track of your schedule.

You can also seek help with managing your bills and invoices. Spreadsheets keep track of an individual’s taxes, while billing services can help busy business owners with the aging of accounts receivables.

6. Practice hygiene

Our busy lifestyles may cause us to neglect proper health habits. We shouldn’t forget simple practices washing our hands often or covering our mouths when we sneeze, as these will keep us healthy.

7. Watch the Posture

Walking and sitting up straight are habits we should keep in mind. Swap the office chair for a stability ball. Doing this will help you to deal with your back issues.

In all, common health conditions aren’t as challenging to manage as we think. MInor lifestyle changes will help.

By Michelle L.

Copyright © 2014-2019 Life Advancer. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

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How to Talk about Health Problems | Learn English

Health Problems In An Overweight Friend

  • Skin: skin irritation, skin inflammation, redness, tenderness, swelling, rash,  itching, acne, pimple, blister, burn, scar, scratch
  • Eye: nearsightedness, farsightedness,conjunctivitis, , cataract.
  • Ear: wax blockage, hearing loss, earache, ruptured eardrum.
  • Nose, throat, lungs: nosebleed, runny nose, stuffy nose, rhinitis,  hay fever, sinusitis, a cold, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma.
  • Heart and circulation:  high blood pressure, heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, cardiac arrest.
  • Blood: anemia, bleeding, internal bleeding, hemorrhage, leukemia.
  • Brain and nervous system: headache, migraine, dizziness ,  meningitis, epilepsy, convulsions, seizure, stroke, paralysis, cerebral palsy, dementia.
  • Nutrition: vitamin deficiency , obesity, to be overweight, weight loss, anorexia, bulimia.
  • Stomach, intestines: indigestion,  upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, gastritis,  colitis, appendicitis,  cholera.
  • Liver: hepatitis, , cirrhosis.
  • Kidneys:  kidney stones.
  • Bones, joints: backache / back pain,osteoporosis, arthritis.
  • Muscles: muscle spasm, muscle cramp, muscular dystrophy, hernia.
  • Injuries: injury, wound, trauma, hand injury, knee injury, foot injury, head injury, concussion, contusion, fracture, fractured bone, sprained ankle, bruise to have a broken arm.
  • General infections: the flu / influenza, tuberculosis, tetanus, rabies, yellow fever,, smallpox, anthrax.
  • Infectious diseases:  measles,  polio, chicken pox, scarlet fever.
  • Hormonal disorders: diabetes.
  • Oncology: benign tumor, malignant tumor, cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer, skin cancer.
  • Mental disorders: depression, phobia, schizophrenia.
  • Addictions: alcohol abuse, drug abuse.
  • What’s the matter?
  • What’s wrong?
  • How do you feel today?
  • How are you feeling?

These are some of the most common ways to talk about the health problems you might have.

Pronoun + Have /has + an /an + health problem

I have a stiff neckI don’t have a stiff neck
I have a twisted ankleI don’t have a twisted ankle
I have an ear infectionI don’t have an ear infection
She has a runny noseShe doesn’t have  a runny nose
He has a deep cutHe doesn’t have a deep cut
He has a sore throatHe doesn’t have a sore throat
You have a chest painYou don’t have a chest pain
They have a broken legThey don’t have a broken leg

Grammar to Describe an Accident You Had

When you talk about an accident you had, you have to make those sentences using the simple past.

In the following chart, it is shown how to make affirmative and negative sentences using the simple past.

Pronoun + broke + my/ her/ his + health problem

I broke my legI didn’t break my leg
I broke my armI didn’t break my arm
She broke her right leftShe didn’t break her right left
He broke her right armHe didn’t break her right arm
He broken his legHe didn’t break his leg

Other Phrases to Describe your Symptons when Going to the Doctor

I can’t sleep because my head aches too bad
I feel very sick, I don’t think I can work today.
He is covered in Bruises
She had such a high temperature
Our daughter has been diagnosed with cancer
She can’t come to school, she’s in bed with a cold
I think I caught a cold on the ice rink yesterday.
She says her stomach is still sore after the operation.
He injured his finger when he was cutting the meat.
I had such a horrible headache last night that I took two pain killers.
I’m afraid I’m pregnant; I vomit after getting up every morning.

How to Give Recommendations about Health Problems

This is the way to give recommendations to others when they talk about the health problems they have.

Pronoun + should +verb + article+ recommendation

  1. You should drink plenty of water
  2. You should take some medicaments
  3. She should take antibiotics for eight days before the tooth extraction
  4. You shoud drink a hot soup
  5. He should wear a knee-pad no matter what physical activity he does
  6. You should take vitamin C
  7. You should rest
  8. You should take some rest
  9. You should  take a painkiller
  10. You should apply a Ice Pack in the back of your neck

These are some other ways to give recommendations

  • You can take an aspirin for pain. 
  • You can take some time off
  • You could try drinking more water.  
  • You could try resting more
  • You may want to eat less.  
  • You may want to quit smoking
  • You might want to exercise more.  
  • You might want to quit drinking
  • would take some time off if I were you. 
  • I would start doing more exercises if I were you

Types of Doctors

These are some of the kind of doctors that you will find working in a clinic or hospital

  • Cardiologist: A heart doctor
  • Dermatologist: A skin doctor
  • Dentist: A doctor who treats teeth
  • Obstetrician: A doctor for female patients before and during pregnancy (c
  • Optometrist: An eye doctor
  • Orthopedic Doctor  A doctor who specialise in bones
  • Pediatrician: A doctor for children
  • Surgeon: A doctor who performs operations

Health Problems Practice

If you want to practice spelling and vocabulary and besides that encourage independent learning, send this Common Illnesses, Diseases and Sickness Flashcard Set to your students

Download this worksheet and make copies for your students

Health Problems – Production

There are several ideas to make students use the target vocabulary and phrases creatively

  1. Create a Powerpoint presentation and include pictures of common diseases, illnesses and sickness studied in class, show the picture to your students and ask them to make sentences such as:
    • She has a broken leg
    • He has a runny nose
  2. Create a Powerpoint presentation and include pictures of common diseases, illnesses and sickness studied in class, show the picture to your students and ask them to give recommendations
    • She should go to the doctor
    • She has to take a rest

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Obesity in America: Are You Part of the Problem?

Health Problems In An Overweight Friend

Despite our country’s obsession with weight and appearance, most people who are overweight  medical standards don’t realize it.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than two-thirds of Americans age 20 or older are overweight or obese: 34% are overweight, 35% are obese (meaning overweight enough to be at high risk for health problems), and an additional 6% are extremely obese (meaning that they are at even higher risk of developing health problems).

What we’re talking about isn’t “love-handles” or a body that doesn’t match the supermodels we see in magazines.

Instead, we’re talking about weight that significantly threatens health, well-being, and longevity. Only cigarette smoking causes more preventable deaths in America than obesity does.

That means that approximately 300,000 deaths each year are directly or indirectly related to obesity.

Certain groups are more prone to overweight and obesity than others.  For example, women — who often tend to gain weight as they get older — are at higher risk than men.

 Black women are at higher risk than white women, and low-income minority women are the most ly to be overweight.  In general, middle aged women are at the highest risk for becoming obese.

Most troubling of all, children-even at very young ages – are more overweight and obese than ever before, setting the stage for lifelong weight-related health problems.

Research has found that overweight people who are “apple shaped” — with more belly fat around the waist — have more health problems than overweight people who are “pear shaped” (most of the extra weight below the waist).

One study followed participants for up to seven years and used CT scans and physical exams to assess the fat deposits that accumulated in the abdomen region, liver, and muscle tissues including the heart.

Over the next 7 years, the number of men and women in the study had 90 heart-related incidents, 141 cases of cancer, and 71 deaths from various causes.

After statistically controlling for the effect of age, exercise habits, BMI and self-reported eating habits, the researchers concluded that those with more abdominal fat were more ly to develop heart disease and cancer. Although the reason is unknown; one possible explanation could be that belly fat is often an indication for too much fat around the internal organs such as the liver and heart.

Assessing Body Composition: BMI and Waistline Measurements

How do you know if you are medically overweight or obese?  Doctors use a formula that takes both height and weight into consideration to come up with a standardized measurement known as body mass index, or BMI.  The BMI is a reliable indirect way of measuring total body fat content.

Your health care provider can help you figure out your BMI, or you can use an automatic BMI calculator.

You can also calculate your BMI by hand:

1) divide your weight (in pounds) by your height (in inches) squared. Then
2) multiply the result by 703

For example, if you are 5′5″ (65″) tall and weigh 150 lbs:

[150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = [150 ÷ 4225] x 703 = 24.96.

The interpretation of BMI is health risk, not on a judgment about physical attractiveness. In general, the higher the BMI, the higher your health risks will be.

  • BMI for people at a healthy body weight falls between 18.5 and 24.9;
  • A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. At this weight, your chances of dying early, especially from heart disease or cancer, are increased.
  • A BMI over 30 is considered obese. Over 30% of Americans fall into this category, with dramatically increased risk of health problems and earlier death.

Even with a healthy BMI, however, white, black, and Latina women with a waistline measurement of 35 inches or more, and Asian women with a waistline of 31 inches or more, may still be at risk for serious fat-related medical problems.

This is because the accumulation of “visceral” fat can be especially harmful.  Measure your waist at the level of the points of your elbows when your arms are at your sides.

Keep the tape measure parallel to the floor, and don’t pull it so tight that it compresses your skin.

Causes of Overweight and Obesity

Why are so many Americans overweight? At least three general factors contribute to adult weight gain: behavior, environment, and genetics. Although we can’t control our genetics, we do have some substantial control over behavior (our eating habits and physical activity) and of many aspects of our environment (things at home, school, and work that might affect our weight).

Behavior includes the personal decisions we make about diet and exercise. Many of us, perhaps tempted by appealing advertisements and the convenience of fast foods and take-out restaurants, eat more fattening and unhealthy foods than we intend to.

 Americans tend to favor large serving sizes and high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sugar foods, which provide little nutrition and add many pounds. This includes fast food, sodas, sugary cereals, and processed foods.  Too often we don’t even realize it.

 For example, at some popular restaurants, one meal may have an entire day’s worth of calories and far more fat and salt than our bodies can process in a day. Our favorite latte can have one-third of a day’s calories.

Our environments contribute to weight control problems in a number of ways. The couch potato is a well-recognized example, and many of us fit that description since two-thirds of adults don’t get the 30 minutes of exercise a day that is needed to stay fit.

With cars, remote-controlled TV’s (complete with frequent images of junk food), on-line shopping, and an array of labor-saving appliances at home and at work, many of us have become less active every year.

Regular moderate exercise can get rid of the unhealthy visceral fat that accumulates around the waistline, even before the scales start to show an overall weight loss.

Scientists are still learning about how genetics affect obesity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that some people are more ly to become obese, but they can’t explain exactly why.

One theory is that thousands of years ago some humans developed genes that allowed their bodies to store more fat and helped them survive when food was scarce. Today, we don’t need fat storage for survival, but some people still have the fat-storing genes passed down from their ancestors.

Such people would have a very high chance of becoming obese and would therefore need to work all the harder to avoid obesity.

Making a Commitment to do Something about being Overweight

People don’t need to be extremely thin to be healthy and happy.  But being overweight or obese can diminish the quality and the length of your life.

Some people can get their weight down on their own, and others can benefit from working with a health care provider, nutritionist, trainer, buddy, or proven programs Weight Watchers®.  Everyone is different so do what will work for you.

The important thing is that you take steps to keep or get to a healthy weight.

Eating a healthy diet with the right foods can help you lose and manage weight.

 It’s important to know that not all foods are created equal!  Some foods, such as nuts, are high in nutrients and essential vitamins, while others lack nutritional substance, such as products containing added sugars.

Nutrient-dense food” provides substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories, but leaves you feeling fuller while also supplying valuable fuel for your body.  A person is more ly to stick to a diet – while feeling better and healthier-if calories are nutrient – dense.

What you drink might be more important than you think.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that middle-aged adults who drank at least one sugar-sweetened beverage (such as regular soda) each day had gained about 27% more “belly fat” over the next 6 years than those who didn’t drink those beverages! Belly fat is fat in the abdominal cavity that surrounds some of your vital organs.

It increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Obviously, sugar drinks are not the only cause of belly fat. And, of course, those who drink sugary beverages are more ly to eat foods with added sugars, fewer fruits and vegetables, smoke, and exercise less.

Empty calories from simple carbohydrates found in processed and refined sugars, such as candy, pasta and bread made from white flour, and foods with corn syrup, leave you hungry again soon after, craving more food.

This is because simple carbohydrates quickly turn into useless sugar, whereas complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and low-fat yogurt and milk, provide long-lasting nutrients, improve digestion, help stabilize blood sugar, and keep your energy at an even level.

  Although foods such as fruit are also considered simple carbohydrates, they contain vitamins and nutrients that occur naturally, un those found in processed and refined foods.

A 2011 study found that certain foods were linked to weight change more than others.

After following participants for an average of 17 years, researchers found that weight increase was most strongly linked to foods such as potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, and unprocessed red meats.

  Foods such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fruits, and yogurts were closely linked to preventing weight gain.

Also, adding or increasing regular exercise to your daily routine can help gain control and maintain a healthy weight.  Research has shown very clearly that 30 minutes of moderately strenuous daily exercise is one of the most important requirements for disease prevention-even for people who are already at an ideal weight.

 The exercise you choose doesn’t need to be elaborate, or to take place in a gym.  Walking, biking, swimming, or gardening can do the trick, and getting a friend or family member to exercise with you can turn this into a valued part of your daily routine.

 Learn more about the health benefits of physical activity and how to get started from the CDC.

Beware of drugs that are advertised for weight loss.  Recently, Contrave, a drug which was approved by the FDA for weight loss, was put on the 2017 “Watch List” for risks of losing consciousness. Sustained and healthy weight loss cannot be achieved by a pill!

All articles on our website have been approved by Dr. Diana Zuckerman and other senior staff. 

  1. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm, EB, et al. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2011;364:2392-404. //
  2. Ogden CL, Carroll MD. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity among adults United States, trends 1960 -1962 to 2011-2012. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014.
  3. Paddock, C., PhD. (2013, July 12). Heart and cancer risks of belly fat. //
  4. Pew Research Center. American See Weight Problems Everywhere But In the Mirror. April 2006.
  5. Sugary Drinks Tied to Increase in Deep Belly Fat: MedlinePlus. (2016, January 11). //

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