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Facing OBESITY – Fat Kills!

April 10
09:25 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

Very few doctors in the past made it known to patients that they were obese, overweight or borderline. Quite frankly, the only time you knew you were overweight or in need of losing “some” weight would be after having been diagnosed with hypertension, high cholesterol or maybe diabetes. The reality is that for years we have overlooked obesity as a diagnosis on the pretense that being “thick” is part of our culture. It is true that because Belize has such diverse cultures, this contributes widely to the quality of food that we consume on a daily basis. A large percent of the working population will confess to working long hours and find it time consuming to come home and slave over a pot to feed the family. Why cook and waste the little time we have to rest preparing food when we can solve the problem quickly and cheaply? It is this same mentality that has the greater part of our population struggling with weight-loss and having to adapt to new diagnoses of chronic diseases.

Maintaining poor eating habits, lack of exercise and indulging in non-beneficial habits such as smoking and drinking has weighed down a once healthy society to its breaking point, where it is now disrespectful to call someone fat or big due to their poor choices in life. Governments have found it easier to change the physical components of institutions so as to facilitate this pandemic rather than facing the issue head on. We find places making bigger coffins, wider doors, hospitals procuring budgets to buy bigger beds, heavy duty scales and wider equipment all in an effort to make comfortable this deadly symptom.

Gone are the days when Hypertension, Diabetes and High Cholesterol were diseases of the elderly. No! Now we find young people ailing with the same. The explanation is simple – as we age our arteries harden. This made it easy for patients to have higher blood pressure in their old age. However, since we have adapted the path to modernization – high consumptions of fatty foods, salts and sugars, it has led to the premature development of diabetes and high blood pressure at an earlier starting point. We don’t just wake up one day and all of a sudden become a hypertensive patient, or suddenly develop diabetes or other forms of cardiac insufficiencies. It creeps up on us and while some of us may be genetically predisposed; a lot of us force ourselves into becoming slaves to “medications” and to chronic diseases. If only we paid attention to what we consumed. Yes, you might justify your unhealthy lifestyle by saying that eating healthy is expensive and that you save more money by just buying ramen noodles or that it is less time consuming to buy a $5 Lee Chee. Indeed, this may be so BUT how expensive is it to be on Dialysis as a complication of Diabetes? How expensive is it to have to find money to pay for hospital bills after you suffer a stroke or heart attack?? Is it still cheap then? These complications don’t just happen to anyone. There are factors that contribute to us getting them and it all starts with the way we treat our bodies. If our input calories greatly exceeds the amount of calories we burn, our body stores this in the form of fat. This excess accumulation of fat appears in the form of being overweight and migrates to the status of obese if we are not careful.

Obesity is a prevailing factor found in patients with hypertension, diabetes and chronic heart failure. It is only the obvious of multiple contributing factors. I believe that while our culture makes room for a diet that has predominance in carbohydrates, we need to begin to educate our people as to the end result of “embracing culture.” While there is nothing wrong with being diverse, I believe that as a community we need to work on educating the public in the tiny things that have such profound effect in our lives and we can start by pointing out the obvious – being obese and diagnosing it as such. Far too many times patients come for a clinical consult and obesity is not considered part of the diagnosis especially if it is not a threat in the moment or if maybe the doctor is your friend. Doctors, we need to start mentioning it before the patient complains of shortness of breath, chest pains or acute increase in blood pressure. Wives, tell your hubby that there are a couple pounds there that you are certain you didn’t marry….parents, change the types of snacks you buy for your kids if you notice they are a little on the heavy side. Fathers take your family for an evening walk rather than sitting behind the television after eating. There are many ways you can improve your quality of life.

Chronic heart failure, hypertension and diabetes have many contributing factors that are non-modifiable. However, increasing awareness can reduce and modify at least ONE factor that is preventable as well as modifiable. OBESITY – a precipitating factor in cardiovascular diseases and metabolic dysfunctions. Start targeting this silent symptom. Modify food habits, change that sedentary lifestyle, drink plenty of water, and seek the council of a physician, dietitian or trainer at the gym. One lifestyle change can make the world of difference.

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