Overweight caused by overeating is the biggest cause of death in the Western world. At least one in three of us needs to lose weight. Being fat doesn’t just make people miserable—and make it difficult for them to wear the clothes they’d like to wear—it makes diseases as varied as asthma, gout, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis worse and it kilb people. Most people who are overweight worry because they feel that they don’t look their best; they want to lose weight because they want to be more attractive to others.
If you weigh too much you are more likely to develop heart disease, get high blood pressure, have a stroke or suffer from diabetes.
In addition excess fat makes many lives miserable, causes depression and makes crippling diseases such as asthma and arthritis considerably worse.
Heart disease of all kinds is made much worse when patients weigh too much. In many cases heart disease is brought on because of obesity. The fatter you are the greater the burden will be on your heart.
Diabetes mellitus is now so common that 2% of the population have it. And the number of diabetics is doubling every ten years. Many patients become diabetic because they eat too much. Thousands of cases of diabetes could be prevented if people ate less fattening food. Overweight people are far more likely to get diabetes than people of average or below average weight. Diabetes is caused by a malfunction in the pancreatic gland—the gland that produces the hormone insulin. Insulin helps the body make proper use of carbohydrates in your food.
Many of those who develop diabetes—and this is particularly true of those who develop the disease in late adulthood—can get rid of the signs and symptoms of the disease by dieting, losing weight and carefully controlling their food intake. (All this should, of course, be done under medical supervision).
Numerous disorders are made worse by being overweight. Eczema, varicose veins, piles, high blood pressure, gallstones, strokes and hernias are just a few of the disorders known to be associated with too much weight. People who are overweight are more likely to face extra risks if they need to have surgery (because having an anaesthetic is more dangerous if you are overweight), and women who are fat face extra difficulties if they get pregnant.
Losing excess weight will help your body in hundreds of different ways. Even your feet will benefit! An average sized pair of feet provide their owner with less than 50 square inches of support. You can get some idea of the sort of strain there is on your feet by trying to hold a bag of flour on the tip of one finger. Losing weight dramatically reduces the pressure on your feet and makes bunions, corns and similar problems far less likely.
Here are some of the specific ways in which being overweight can affect your health:
Fat people are far more likely to suffer from arthritis and rheumatism. Because they have more weight to carry, their joints and ligaments creak under the strain. The knees are often the first to give way. Losing excess weight won’t repair the damage that has already been done to your joints; but it will dramatically reduce the incidence of future problems. Arthritis and backache sufferers who are overweight will usually suffer from less pain—and become more mobile—if they lose weight.
Your heart has to supply the rest of your body with fresh blood—delivering oxygen and then taking away the waste
Products. The bigger your body is, the harder your heart has to work. An average heart beats seventy times a minute and if your heart has to work 20% harder (because you are 20% overweight) the strain will tell. If your heart beats 70 times a minute then it will beat 4,200 times an hour; 100,800 times a day; 705,600 times a week; 36,691,200 times a year and an astonishing 2,568,384,000 times in an average lifetime. Add another 20% to that total and you can see the difference it makes! A small 1500cc motor car engine may work very well when put in a small car body but if the same engine is put into a bus it will soon show real signs of overstrain. Getting rid of your excess weight will ensure that the strain on your heart is reduced—and in the long run that means that your chances of suffering from heart trouble will fall significandy.
Because fat acts as a sort of insulation—keeping the body warm—overweight people sweat a great deal more than thin people when the weather is hot. To this must be added the fact that fat people tend to have deep skin creases in which the sweat can accumulate. These skin creases are difficult to keep clean and dry—so fungal infections are commonplace. Women who are overweight often find that their abdominal skin creases and the areas around their groins and under their breasts are particularly likely to cause problems and eczema or dermatitis often develop.
Losing weight means that fat disappears but if the skin has been stretched for a long period of time the skin folds may not disappear and when this happens surgery may be needed to remove the excess skin.
Your blood pressure
Blood normally travels around your body under pressure—much in the same way that water travels through a hose-pipe under pressure. If you use a longer hose, you’ll need more pressure to
Push the water through as quickly. And if your body gets bigger then your blood pressure will need to increase to make sure that all parts of your body continue to receive a good blood supply. When blood pressure rises there is a danger that a blood vessel will be unable to take the strain and may burst. If you lose your excess weight then your blood pressure should fell—and you will be less likely to have a stroke.
Your chest is permanently expanding and contracting as air is sucked into and forced out of your lungs. If your chest wall is thick with fat, breathing becomes more difficult. This will become particularly noticeable on slight exertion and explains why overweight people often appear to be short of breath. The shortage of fresh air getting into the lungs means that the blood is short of oxygen—and that means that the heart has to work even harder to keep the tissues supplied.
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from heart disease and from lung disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. Losing excess weight often means that some of the fetty tissue around the lungs disappears—freeing the lungs.
Blood in your legs normally gets back up to your heart through your veins. It is the muscles in your legs which help to squeeze the blood back upwards. If you are overweight your muscles will have difficulty in squeezing your veins so your blood will tend to stay where it is—producing swollen or varicose veins. Losing excess weight helps to make sure that this problem doesn’t get any worse.