Obesity claims more than 300,000 lives a year and according to Surgeon General David Satcher could surpass smoking as the nation’s No. 1 preventable health problem.

Obesity claims more than 300,000 lives a year and according to Surgeon General David Satcher could surpass smoking as the nation’s No. 1 preventable health problem.

Obesity affects about 32 million American adults aged 25-74. A study in the 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women are overweight. Twenty-one percent of men and 27 percent of women are classified as clinically obese.

When a person accumulates enough excess fat to raise the risk of disease, they are clinically obese. That means they weigh 20 percent or 25-30 pounds over their ideal weight. Generally, a man with a waist size of more than 45 inches, and a  woman with a waist of 35 inches are obese.

While there are some exceptions, obesity is largely a disease of overeating and under-exercising. Taking in more calories than one “burns off” results in added pounds. One must burn about 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Even genetic obesity is not a major cause of obesity. Eating more than the amount of energy spent daily is the primary cause of obesity.

Americans once considered fatness as a sign of health. Children were often weaned on sweetened condensed milk before the 1970s. Fat babies were healthy babies. At least that’s what we thought. Now, scientific data is clear: being too fat is a major health risk.

The JAMA study claims thatmore than 300,000 of the nation’s 2.33 million deaths were due to obesity. Compared to males of normal weight, obese men are three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and twice as likely to die at any age for any reason.

The study revealed that obese people, with some variation, are 50 to 500 times more likely to develop type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, coronary artery disease, arthritis and high blood pressure.

In addition, people who are overweight will have higher medical bills, more frequent doctor visits and spend more time in the hospital. Other symptoms may include breathing problems, back problems, insomnia and increased susceptibility to other diseases.

The good news is that those who inherit obesity can lose weight and be healthy if they exercise and eat a balanced diet. Studies conducted by Cooper Institute researcher Steven Blair found that overweight people who exercised were healthier than thin people who did not exercise.

Poor health is only one cost of obesity. About 45 percent of women and 25 percent of men are trying to lose weight at any one time, according to MSNBC.com. Americans spend more than $33 billion a year on weight-loss products and services. The economic cost of obesity in U.S. health care was about $117 billion in 2000. the site reported.

For those waiting on the magic pill, forget it. There are no healthy shortcuts. And those stomach vibrators? Save your money. They don’t work either.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are only three proven methods that have worked, still work and will work. Eat a balanced diet, practice good stress techniques and exercise.

Eat a balanced diet of 6 to 8 fruits, grains, vegetables and three servings of lean meat each day. Eat smaller meals 5 times a day to keep your blood sugar constant. Bake, broil and boil rather than frying food. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day.

Practice stress reduction techniques. Attend a seminar and get some help with handling those everyday matters that create stress for you.

Do aerobic exercise five or six days a week to build your fitness level and lift weights or some type of resistance training two or three times a week. Get help from a certified professional trainer at a local gym.

Ray Furr has been certified personal fitness trainer for more than 10 years.  He and his family live in Virginia.

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