In America today, a silent killer is lurking – and, for many, has already begun to wreak its havoc.
What is this medical menace, we may ask?
The answer is obesity.
According to the CDC, approximately one-third of Americans is obese; that proportion rises to two-thirds in the state of Alabama. In addition, Generation X is the first in which parents are expected to live longer than their offspring. Furthermore, the annual healthcare cost of an overweight patient is estimated to be $1,429 higher than that of a person with normal weight.
The reason obesity is a silent killer is that many years may elapse before its damage is fully evident. Excess weight, particularly its distribution around the midsection (i.e. “pot belly”), is a sure sign of insulin resistance – the stage immediately preceding the development of diabetes. The higher blood glucose rises, usually in response to the glycemic index of the foods we consume, the more “visceral” fat is stored in the mid-abdomen.
Since mid-abdominal obesity is a harbinger of Type II, or “adult-onset”, diabetes, we may further ask why diabetes is so sinister for health and longevity. Over the long term, particularly if poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to renal failure, blindness, heart disease, strokes, and limb-threatening infections. Intriguingly, multiple acclaimed studies in recent years link high blood sugar (“hyperglycemia”) in general to the formation of “advanced glycemic end products”, or “AGE” products. These products, formed between glucose and the proteins in the body, have been hailed as a possible explanation of aging itself – in addition to so many of the long term effects of diabetes.
Prevention, as we know, is worth a pound of cure.
Avoiding high glycemic index foods, such as carbohydrates in general as well as sugary sodas and desserts, is most critical. Second, achieving 1 hour of aerobic exercise 5 days per week is also important for weight control -- as well as cardiovascular health in general.
If you are already a Type II diabetic, tight glucose control is key to both your quantity and quality of life.
If you do not already have a primary care provider, I invite you to come see me at Tannehill Clinic. I am committed to your health and well being – both treatment AND prevention of disease!
Mary Beth Dearmon, MD