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Obesity in the United States


Irma Odoms

Global Health College

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (2011), thenumber of people suffering from obesity in the US has increased bymore than 100% since the 1970s. Presently, 35.7% (78 million) adultsand 16.9% (12.5 million) adults are suffering are medically obese.Although recent studies show that the prevalence of the disease hassignificantly reduced, especially with some groups, obesity is stilla serious public health menace in the United States. Although recentstudies show that the prevalence of the disease has significantlyreduced, especially with some groups, obesity is still a seriouspublic health menace in the United States as a significant percentageof people are still experiencing the problem. Obesity is a diseasethat humans develop when the body has surplus fats. On the otherhand, obesity can be defined in terms of Body Mass Index. Belany(2012) asserts that people with a BTMI of more than 30 are obese. Onthe contrary, some weight related experts contend that obese personsare individuals with a BMI that exceeds 40. BTMI is determinedthrough dividing the average weight of a person with his or herheight. If a person has a high BTMI, that implies that he or she hasexcess fats. Dieticians and physicians use the BTMI calculationmethod to determine ‘appropriate’ weight of any person (Blass,2008). Obesity results mainly from energy imbalance. In case thecalories an individual consumes significantly exceeds the energyspent within a day, the extra energy is converted into fats andstored in the body for future use. The condition is mainly commonwith people whose professions encourage them to live a sedentarylifestyle. For example, IT professionals and other people who withprofessions that encourage sedentary lifestyles are vulnerable toobesity.

Despite the fact that many people in the United States are obese theAmerican culture despises overweight persons. In the United States,slim women are considered healthy and beautiful while obese women aredeemed as “physically unattractive.” This explains the reasonmany models and public figures in the US, especially women, strive tostay slim. However, some cultures encourage deliberately overfeedwomen so that they can become obese. For example, Afghans considerobese women as beautiful. In case a married woman in Afghan is notoverweight, the husband is considered lazy and poor provider. Inaddition, the woman cannot be classified among beautiful womenconsidering that a huge size is a significant beauty determinant. Onthe same note, some West African cultures such as Nigerians andGhanaians deliberately expose their women to obesity through specialfeeding programs. This mainly happens a short time before marriage.Since obese women are “beautiful” in these cultures, slim womenfind it challenging to get a husband, as well as well high dowry.Unfortunately, obesity is extremely unhealthy considering that itcauses cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, liver cancersand strokes among other complications. Fortunately, it is possible toprevent or cure the disease through exercise, behavior modification,surgery and diet adjustment (Blass, 2008).

Although recent studies show that the prevalence of the condition hassignificantly reduced, especially with some groups, obesity is stilla serious public health menace in the United States. Significantdisparities prevail based on diverse factors such as socioeconomicstatus (SES), demographics (gender, ethnicity and race), andgeographic region. Currently, statistics indicates that more thantwo-thirds adults are obese or overweight. In general, demographicsindicates that Hispanics and African-Americans are more affected bythe condition that the Caucasians. The average cost of treatingobesity related conditions in the US averages at $147 in 2008.Further statistics indicates that the cost of treating obese personswas $1,429 higher than the cost of treating healthy weightindividuals (Ogden et al., 2012).

Every time an individual consumes higher level of energy and caloriesthan the body requires for maintaining any active lifestyle, thesurplus calories are stored around the abdomen, limbs and chest amongother places in the body. As the fat buildup keeps increasing, thebody weight continues rising. Although fat is essential in the bodybecause e they accomplish different functions such as protecting someinternal organs such as the heart from shock injury, as well asinsulates the body from cold, surplus accumulation may cause fatalcomplications to humans (Blass, 2008). Dieticians recommend carefulplanning of meals, as well as physical exercise as the most effectivemethods for maintaining a healthy weight. The internet has been amajor contributor to increased prevalence of people suffering fromobesity as it encourages a sedentary lifestyles style (Stern &ampKazaks, 2009). Instead of attending live games, some people preferwatching matches at their homes of offices. Similarly, the internetfacilitates convenient shopping as an individual can order theirpreferred commodities online. On the same note, customers can comparethe prices of different dealers using comparison websites. Prior tothe introduction of the internet, customers had to move around, fromone store to the other, comparing the prices various dealers aregiving. This in turn ensured people do not have an excessivelysedentary lifestyle that could make patients (Blass, 2008).

In the United States, people mainly associate obesity to overeatingand sedentary lifestyle. However, recent research indicates thatthere are other underlying reasons that are contributing to theproblem. These include:

Environmental factors

People who live in an area with numerous fast food restaurants oftenconsume junk foods more regularly than their colleagues in areas with several junk diet outlets. In the United, every town has either anyestablished fast food restaurant such as the McDonald’s, or othersmall “mom and pop” fast food outlet. In addition, people livingcongested towns with no parks or pathways for jogging may also hinderpeople from exercising regularly. Insecurity is another majorhindrance. People may fear to take a walk or jog in case they areliving in high insecure regions (Blass, 2008).

Genetic factors

Several studies have proven that some people are more vulnerable toobesity disease than others. Similarly, obese persons tend to marryobese spouses. This means that the combination of the couple’sgenes enhances the probability of their child suffering from obesitycondition, as well. Other factors such as ethnicity and thepopulation age also predispose patients to obesity. Recent studiesshow that the African Americans and Hispanics are more vulnerable toobesity that the Caucasians (Blass, 2008).


The lifestyle of any person is another essential factor that hascontributed to the rising cases of obesity. Many doctors claim thatthe human digestion process tends to be higher when one is asleep,but few Americans allocate adequate time to sleeping. Sleeping forfew hours prevents the body from utilizing the energy they consume.Several Americans rarely sleep enough, which turn has predisposedthem even higher to obesity (Blass, 2008). Ogden et al. (2012)associate accumulation of fats to consumption of various drugs suchas steroids, contraceptives, the blood pressure and antidepressantsand drugs.

In the United States, high blood pressure disease has been increasingsteadily. The trend can be linked to the increasing number ofpatients. Like any individual gains excess body fats, the bloodvessels constrict due to fat accumulation on the inside of the veins.As the veins continue constricting, the rate of blood flow keepsrising steadily, thereby causing high blood pressure (Blass, 2008).

Another chronic condition associated with obesity includes diabetesmellitus. Diabetes can be classified into three varieties:insulin-dependent or type-1diabetes, gestational diabetes, and type-2or adult-onset diabetes. A patient develops type-1 diabetes in casethe pancreas is damaged by an auto-immune that prevents it fromsecreting insulin. An individual’s environment, as well as geneticfactors, predispose patients to diabetes type-1. The type-2 diabetesis the most common disease among diabetic patients. Approximately 90%of diabetic people are suffering from this illness. The predisposingfactors to this condition include sedentary lifestyle, older age(above 45 years), depression, genetic inheritance, high bloodpressure, and association with some ethnic communities such as AsianAmerican, African American, Native American, and Latino. Type 2diabetes has a lifespan of ten years when patients control theeffects of the condition (American Diabetes Association, 2012).However, patients can die even in a shorter period when in case theyfail to practice safe disease control procedures. Physiciansrecommend that patients should specifically modify their diets andlife style to reduce adverse effects associated with diabetes type-2.The gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. Family history,race and obesity are the main predisposing factors to the disease.The disease enhances the danger of congenital malformations andexcessive birth weight (macrosomia). Several women in the UnitedStates who fail to have controlled glucose e level after deliveringare at risk of suffering from diabetes type-2 afterwards. Extendedcomplications resulting from diabetes may result into conditions suchas blindness, kidney failure, and diabetic neuropathy (Stern &ampKazaks, 2009)

Americans suffering from obesity are more susceptible to hypertensionthan individuals with a healthy body weight. As the plaque builds upin the arteries, the vessels become narrow consistently. In 2012, theAmerican Bureau of Statistics claimed that 28% of women and 26% men,suffering from high blood pressure in the United States can beassociated with obesity and having excess weight. In addition, 15%coronary disease cases, in women and 23% cases in men, in the UnitedStates are caused by obesity. The disease is a critical problem amongmany Americans. Diet modification is one of the best strategies forcontrolling the malady. Health researchers claim that some ethnicgroups are at a higher risk of suffering from high blood pressurethan others (American Diabetes Association, 2012).

Poor dietary habits, that cause diabetes, do also causecardiovascular illnesses. The increasing buildup of cholesterol andlipids on the blood vessel walls leads to the development ofatherosclerosis, which is a disease that involves clogging,narrowing, and hardening of blood vessels. According to the AmericanDiabetes Association (2012), atherosclerosis is the leading cause ofdiabetes to people suffering from cardiovascular disease. The highbuild up of lipids and cholesterol result from poor dieting habits(American Diabetes Association, 2012).

Several obese Americans are susceptible to suffering fromcerebrovascular accident (CVA) (stroke). The condition results frominadequate blood supply in the brain, which may be caused by bloodclots or blood vessel blockage. Over time, cholesterol accumulationdisintegrates and starts flowing in brain arteries. The solidparticles may at some point obstruct effective blood or oxygen intothe brain, an individual may suffer from embolic stroke. Majorsymptoms of people suffering from the disease include cognitiveimpairment, severe headaches, vision problems, and walkingchallenges. In some cases, people who have suffered a stroke becomeparalyzed, depending on the organ affected and the severity of thecondition (Stern &amp Kazaks, 2009).

Obesity in the US is also associated with the high prevalence of someforms of cancerous illnesses. According to the National CancerInstitute (2012), cancer is the second major cause of deaths in theUnited States. However, the prevalence of the disease can beeffectively reduced through maintaining a healthy body weight. Inaddition, increasing physical activity can also help to reducecancers that are caused by obesity. For example, colon cancer iscommon in obese persons because excess fat accumulation in the bowelobstructs smooth food flow. Although the percentage of differentcancers associated with obesity varies widely, some cancers had apercentage of up to 40% risk. The esophageal adenocarcinoma andendometrial cancer are especially the most prevalent cancersassociated with obesity in the US (Stern &amp Kazaks, 2009).

In the US, health experts are recommending diverse methods ofmanaging obesity. One of the major suggestions includes behaviorchange. This may include exercising on daily basis and eating healthydiets. Behavioral change can be more effective if patients can startby outlining reasons they need to change their dieting habits. Inaddition, dieticians recommend obese persons in the United States tojoin peer groups s o that they motivate each other towards achievingtheir ambition. The motivation groups teach other strategies that areworking for them. For example, an obese person can learn when to eatto satisfy hunger, as well as methods of refraining from eating junkfoods caused by cravings (Blass, 2008). Several nutritionists alsorecommend individuals to prepare a shopping plan in order to avoidpurchasing unnecessary commodities. Many people become obese becausee they fail to prepare an effective meal plan. Moreover, individualsshould have long term menus, such as a week’s diet program in orderto keep away from crash dieting. According to dieticians, a sedentarybody requires about 500 calories every day for regular bodymaintenance (Stern &amp Kazaks, 2009). However, people can stillconsume higher calories than the daily recommended amount and stillmaintain a healthy weight depending on the physical activities, ageand gender. For instance, an average man uses a higher amount ofenergy than women on daily basis. This implies that men shouldconsume slightly higher amount of calories. In addition, makingappropriate diet choices can also help to reduce obesity cases inthe United States. For example, Myplate (2007) recommends thatAmericans should embrace the culture of ensuring that at least athird of the diets they consume contain vegetables, grains andfruits.


American Diabetes Association (2012). Heart disease (Cardiovasculardisease or CVA) Retrieved fromhttp://forecast.diabetes.org/diabetes-101/heart-disease-cardiovascular-disease-or-cvd

MyPlate (2007). The eatwell plate. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eatwell-plate.aspx

National Cancer Institute (2012). Obesity and cancer risk. Retrievedfrom http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/obesity

Ogden C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B.K., &amp Flegal K. M. (2014).Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States,2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association,311(8), 806-814.

Blass, E. M. (2008). Obesity: Causes, mechanisms, prevention, andtreatment. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Stern, J. S., &amp Kazaks, A. (2009). Obesity: A referencehandbook. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO.