Obesity is Oregon’s most serious health crisis. Across our state, the number of overweight and obese individuals is rapidly increasing. In the Beaver State alone almost 60% of the population is overweight or obese, and the cost of conditions related to adult obesity in our state is over $700 million per year according to a recent study by the U.S. Public Health Service Centers for Disease Control.
And it’s not just here in Oregon. Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States, and may lead to life-threatening illnesses called co-morbidities. Diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and hypertension are only a few of the health problems that are known to accompany obesity.
But what is obesity? And what can be done for those who have it?
Meeting the Challenge
Obesity is the condition of being significantly above one’s healthy weight, as determined by a person’s body mass index (BMI). This measure is calculated based on a formula established by the National Institute of Health using the person’s height and weight. From this formula, it is clear that the key to lowering BMI is lowering weight.
And lowering weight is simple: one just reduces the body’s daily caloric intake below its daily caloric needs. The body then begins to draw upon stored energy – that is, fat – to stay functional, and the person loses weight.
Many obese Oregonians bravely attempt to decrease caloric intake by means of dieting – and often succeed. However, most who do quickly regain the weight. Even the most heroic calorie crusader has weaknesses – which are often seen by outsiders as a weaknesses in character.
But obesity is not a character defect. The only way to successfully treat the disease of obesity is through medical care, that includes behavior changes related to how much food to eat and when, as well as increased physical activity. For some, education, counseling, and willpower are enough to enable them to eat less. But for others – especially those suffering from addictive disorders — weight loss surgery is the best option.
Weight Loss Surgery
Over the past several decades, research has proven that bariatric surgery – the surgical treatment of obesity – can help those who cannot cut their calorie intake through willpower and commitment alone. The surgery works by physically altering the patient’s stomach to reduce the amount of food the patient can physically consume; as a result, the patient eats less and loses weight.
But surgery is not a panacea. These procedures work only when the patient is willing to make dietary and lifestyle changes as part of a program aimed at recovery from obesity. Patients who fail to follow postoperative instructions may regain any weight lost. And, as with any type of surgery, bariatric surgery presents the possibility of postoperative complications, including anemia, ulcers, internal hernias, calcium deficiencies, gallstones, and premature death. For these and other reasons, each patient should carefully examine the risks of any weight loss surgery procedure with their physician before making a decision.
Oregonians can face the obesity crisis. By choosing a healthier diet and lifestyle, and by resorting to weight loss surgery when necessary, residents of the Beaver State can overcome the problems caused by widespread obesity.