Outlook: Obesity Epidemic
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writerbased in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
Obesity Side Effect Ups Risk forHeart Failure
One adverse effect of obesity—prolongedinflammation of heart tissue—canincrease one's risk of heart failure. Thelarge Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosisincluded nearly 7000 people aged45 to 84. Of the nearly 7000 people, 79developed congestive heart failure; 35of those people were obese (body massindex of 30 or greater). The obese participantshad higher levels of key immunesystem proteins in the blood—markersassociated with inflammation—than thenonobese participants. These proteinsincludeC-reactive protein, fibrinogen,and interleukin-6, which, if levels aredoubled, can lead to an 84% increasedrisk of heart failure. Other known factorsfor congestiveheart failure such as race,age, sex, diabetes, high blood pressure,smoking, cholesterol, and family historywere removed, and researchers foundthat the biggest predictor of heart failurewas the presence of those inflammatorychemicals in the blood.
Reliance on Medication Will NotLower Heart Risks
According to a new study, commonstatins and blood pressure drugs arenot enough to prevent heart disease inoverweight or obese patients. It is vitalfor this patient population to drop weightin order to cut the risk of heart disease.Recent trends in the number of overweightand obese Americans may leadto 2 results: (1) the current baby boomergeneration will not live as long as theirparents, and (2) the decline in cardiovasculardisease deaths over the past halfcentury may plateau and reverse.
In the large study of 6814 men andwomen aged 45 to 84, 60% to 85% wereoverweight and 30% to 50% were obese,depending on the demographic group.Researchers suggested that the recentobesity epidemic is more environmentalthan genetic, and the differences betweenwhite, black, and Hispanic groupsare no longer significant—only Chinese-Americans demonstrated significantlyless obesity at 5%. Whereas it was oncebelievedthat treating the risk factorscould counterbalance the ill effects ofobesity,that is no longer believed to bethe case. It is interesting to note thatthe study participants had not yet hadheart attacks; they did, however, havemany of the markers that predict futurecardiovascular distress. These markersremainedin place regardless of themedications beingtaken for high cholesterol,diabetes, and high blood pressure.The study suggests that pills are notachieving the desiredend point. Lifestylechanges and betterfood choices mustbe incorporated to make any real difference.The emphasismust be redirectedto prevention, according to researchers.
Test May Diagnose "Obesity Virus"
A company, Obetech LLC, out of theVirginia Biosciences Development Center's(VBDC) incubation program developeda diagnostic test that determinesthe presence of adenovirus 36 (Ad-36),which has become known as the "obesityvirus." This common cold virus triggersthe rapid production of fat cells,leading to obesity. The blood test checksfor Ad-36 antibodies and can confirm if aperson has been infected with the virus.The test could predict future weight problemsand perhaps explain unexpectedweight gain. The company has partneredwith Scandinavian Clinical Nutrition, adietary supplement developer that candevelop therapeutic antiviral technologiesto complement Obetech's diagnostic.VBDC executive director David Lohrcommented, "This joint venture will?offer a comprehensive diagnostic andtherapeutic package to consumers seekingsolutions for virus-induced obesity."
Shorter Sleep Increases Risk forObesity
A worldwide study linking the numberof sleep hours to obesity is driving homethe point that not getting enough sleepcontributes to obesity. A literature reviewby British researchers found 17 studieson adults and 12 studies on children thatmet their inclusion criteria. The adult populationsamples included 604,509 participantsglobally, ranging in age from15 to 102 years. Researchers discovereda consistent pattern that beinga shortsleeper is related to being obese, whetherin childhood or adulthood.
It is well known that being overweightcan lead to heart disease and diabetes,not to mention increase the likelihoodof developing obstructive sleep apnea(OSA). OSA can disrupt sleep severaltimes throughoutthe night, can result indaytime sleepiness, as well as increaseone's risk for stroke, diabetes, and heartdisease. This creates a vicious cyclefor an obese person who is also a poorsleeper. Half of all loud snorers haveOSA, which happens when the tissue inthe back of the throat collapses, blocksthe airway, and prevents air from gettingto the lungs. The American AcademyofSleep Medicine (AASM) offers the followingguidelines on the amount of sleep aperson needs, dependingon age:
Infants 3-11 months
Toddlers 2-3 years
Preschool children 4-5 years
School-aged children 6-10 years
Adolescents 11-17 years
Tips on Sleeping Better from the AASM
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants prior to bedtime
- Do not stay up too late studying or working
- Keep computers and TVs out of bedroom
- Do not go to bed hungry but do not eat a big meal either
- Avoid rigorous exercise within 6 hours of bedtime
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and slightly cool
- Get up at the same time every morning
AASM = American Academy of Sleep Medicine.