May 5

Are Those Extra Pounds Shortening Your Lifespan?

Carrying excess bodyfat is never a good thing. Not only is it a source of extra weight to carry around that can put added stress on muscles and joints, but it opens the door for a whole host of metabolic disorders. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and hormone imbalances are just a few that have direct ties. But risks for other conditions like osteoarthritis, depression or sleep apnea can also be a concern.

More serious, however, than all those conditions that affect quality of life would be the impact that excess weight may have on actual length of life. In a disturbing trend of statistics, it appears that death rates in the United States haven’t been decreasing as they had in previous years, which may coincide with a continuing rise in obesity rates, to the tune of robbing you of an extra year of your lifespan!

Good trends HAD been happening over the past several decades. Death from heart disease had been on the decline over the last forty years, and cancer-related death rates were also showing steady declines. But both have either stopped or slowed, and researchers are pointing the finger at the continuing trend of obesity becoming more prevalent in our society. BMI (body mass index) has been the standard measure by which this was evaluated, and even though it is not a perfect tool because it doesn’t look at body composition, it still is accurate in terms of assessing true obesity.

Researchers looked BMI, obesity and death rates on more than 25,000 people, age 40-84, who had contributed to a national health survey from 1988 through 2010. They found that in 2011, the overall increase in BMI reduced life expectancy by 0.9 years by age 40, almost a full year! The statistical model also estimated that 186,000 excess deaths occurred that year due to rising BMI in the United States. From 1976 to 1980, 15 percent of Americans were obese. By 2014, 38 percent of Americans were classified as obese, the researchers said in background notes.

The concern with obesity is that it impacts or leads to several other disease states that are known to impact mortality. Due primarily to poor dietary choices and control, it is the biggest cause of type 2 diabetes, and it promotes all of the risk factors that cause heart disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Obesity is linked to many cancers and is a major cause of sudden death from sleep apnea due to obstruction of the airway. Once you take all of these correlations into account, it is easy to see why being overweight could rob you of a year or more.

And if it were easy enough as just cutting calories and exercising more (which are both necessary and will make a difference), there likely could be other factors affecting weight gain. Hormone imbalance is a major player, be it from thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol or several others. When these aren’t regulated properly, it can undermine even some of the best lifestyle modifications. Stress is also a culprit that can affect not only your hormone balance but also your eating patterns.

If you’re struggling with weight, the time to act is now! We offer a complimentary consultation to help us understand where your challenges may be stemming from and to give us direction on what other areas may need to be assessed. Blood work will help us identify your current status of blood sugar management, hormone imbalance and overall health. From there we can devise a program to help with eating strategies, weight management and general health rebuilding, giving you the best shot at an improved quality of life. And likely adding a year or more back that may have been taken away by those excess pounds!


The study was published in the National Academy of Sciences journal PNAS in January.


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