Very closely trailing tobacco, and may potentially overtake it, obesity is the second leading cause of death and it is too close to conform among African immigrants. Looking at myself in the mirror in the late 2009, the image I saw revealed that as a matter of healthful exigency I had to get rid of some unwanted bulge. Without hesitation, I had to shed off some sizeable pounds through healthy food choices, small portion servings, intake of low carbohydrates, and increased physical activity.
Wearily, it is my observation that most Nigerians in the United States are overweight or obese because of our unhealthy food choices and sedentary lifestyle. Regrettably, the problem is more ubiquitous among Nigerian women due to ecological factors and severe physical inactivity.
Generally speaking, people would like to live long for one reason or the other. Yes, people would live long if they would take the pains to adopt healthy lifestyles. I have not met any individual whose life is not precious, but obesity and obesity-related diseases seem to be dampening the hope of longevity of life of many people, and replacing it with brevity.
The danger of obesity is not only real, but the impact of its collateral damage to the family is heart-wrenching. What is obesity? The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states, “To most people, the term “obesity” means to be very overweight. Health professionals define “overweight” as an excess amount of body weight that includes muscle, bone, fat, and water. “Obesity” specifically refers to an excess amount of body fat.”
There are multiple diseases associated with obesity and physical inactivity that are now bringing about mortality all over the world thereby reducing people’s lifespan. The US National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion stated the following categorically: “Research studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of developing a number of health conditions including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, colon cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, gall bladder-disease, osteoarthritis, and obstructive sleep apnea.
Overweight and obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. Health care system (USDHHS, 2001).”
In the United States of America, published research findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) researchers found that, “Poor diet and physical inactivity were close behind [Tobacco] and gaining rapidly, causing 400,000 deaths.”
The CDC researchers analyzed in their study the 2000 data containing the leading causes of death. Dr. Julie Gerberding, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded at that time that the country was facing “an epidemic of obesity—a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.” She said, “Few of our citizens have healthy nutrition and physical activity levels. For example, only 28 percent of women and 20 percent of men eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.”
The obesity problem is world-wide. But the US National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion alarmed by the pervasiveness of obesity in the society echoed, “The prevalence of obesity has increased substantially over the last 2 decades. In 1999–2000, an estimated 31% of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older — nearly 59 million people — were obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more (NHANES 1999–2000).”
For instance, a man who is six feet tall and weighing between 183 and 222 pounds is considered obese and may likely reduce his lifespan by six years. In contrast, a woman at age 40 with a height of five feet five inches and weighing between 150 and 180 pounds may be deemed obese and consequently may reduce her life expectancy by three to seven years. The lifespan is further reduced if an obese is also a smoker.
The consolation is that most of the health problems associated with weight is self-inflicted. Extrapolating a study on mice published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences to humans, Stephen R. Spindler of the University of California, Riverside, concluded that reduced caloric intake increases longevity of life.
The study generally concludes that everyone could benefit from reduced calories no matter one’s age thereby shattering the dogma that one has to start early in life to benefit from restricted diet. To the enlightenment of those at risk of developing some kinds of cancer, it is further found that restricted caloric intake by humans slows the development of cancerous tumors.
Sadly, however, the CDC statistics revealed that there was a disproportionate high rate of obesity among Black Americans and Mexican Americans. Also, there was a higher rate of obesity-associated diseases among black Americans than any other group.
Obesity and overweight are not limited to the United States of America (USA) alone. Obesity and obesity-associated diseases are world’s emerging health problem.
According to American Obesity Association, “The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate in both developing and developed countries.
Environmental and behavioral changes brought about by economic development, modernization, and urbanization has been linked to the rise in global obesity. Obesity is increasing in children and adults, and true health consequences may become fully apparent in the near future.”
Carrying an extra weight in one’s body is like being suited up in an eternal heavy plate. Unfortunately, many people have persistent problems with bulge and ailments associated with obesity.
Conversely, we can now breathe a sigh of relief about the validation that disciplined regular physical activity coupled with sensible healthy food choices would prolong our lives. Without further ado, remove the perpetual weighty plate and increase your lifespan.