Pennsylvania: known for its historical legacy, its natural beauty, and its vast array of delicious treats. From Tastykakes to cheesesteaks to hot pretzels to Italian ice, from Hershey’s chocolate to Heinz’ 57 varieties, the Keystone State is famous around the world for its good eats.
Sadly, it is also becoming known for something else: its sky-high obesity rate. Over 60% of the population of Pennsylvania is overweight.
Obesity isn’t funny. It is a deadly disease, and one that may lead to life-threatening illnesses called co-morbidities, such as diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, and hypertension. It’s costing us big money, too. In Pennsylvania, over $4 billion is spent each year on obesity-related medical costs, with the taxpayer picking up about half of that tab.
This situation can’t be allowed to continue. It’s time Pennsylvania turned the tables on obesity.
Obesity: The Disease
Obesity is a medical condition with the primary symptom of being above one’s healthy weight. Healthy weight is calculated in terms of individual body mass index (BMI). A person with a BMI of 25 or higher is overweight; a BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity. BMI is calculated by squaring the patient’s height (h) in inches, multiplying his or her weight (w) in pounds by 703, then dividing the latter by the former [ BMI = 703w/(h2) ]. Therefore, the key to beating obesity is to lower one’s weight.
Losing weight is not especially difficult. Once the body’s daily caloric intake falls below its daily caloric needs, the body begins to burn stored food (i.e., excess fat) to stay alive. But weight loss as such isn’t the cure; the act of simply shedding pounds is not a medical treatment at all, but a palliative aimed at one symptom – weight. Obesity is a complex disease that requires comprehensive medical care. A medical treatment for obesity based upon a complete change in the patient’s lifestyle and eating habits will succeed in reducing BMI in most people.
Legitimate treatment comes in several forms. Many obesity patients respond to education and medically-supervised diets. For those beyond this form of care, however, there’s another option: weight loss surgery.
About Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery is a laparoscopic procedure is performed to physically alter the stomach and/or bowel, greatly reducing their holding capacity. These alterations force the patient to consume fewer calories each day than his or her body burns, resulting in the loss of excess weight.
But surgery is not a miracle cure. The procedures only work as part of a continuing medical treatment plan. Patients who fail to make the prescribed diet and lifestyle changes after surgery may regain any weight lost or experience other undesirable consequences. The decision to undergo weight loss surgery is also irrevocable; currently, only the Lap-band procedure is reversible.
These surgical operations are not usually complicated or particularly dangerous; however, as does any form of surgery, weight loss surgery does entail risk. Potential surgery patients should carefully assess the possible hazards associated with any surgical weight loss operation in consultation with their physician prior to making a decision.
The Battle Begins
Pennsylvanians will always love their state’s unique treats, but too much of anything – even scrapple! – can be harmful. Sensible changes in lifestyle and diet – together with weight loss surgery when appropriate — can keep more of us alive to enjoy life in this wonderful state.