After years of decline, mortality rates among middle-aged Americans throughout the United States have begun to increase. Additionally, in some parts of the country, life expectancy is falling.
What are the factors contributing to this rise in death rates? A recent article in the Denver Post highlighted the findings of a new study that sheds some light on this important issue.
Obesity a major contributor to rising death rates
Ryan Masters, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Behavioral Science and the lead author of this study, concluded that there are two main drivers of this trend in rising death rates: drug overdoses and obesity.
Masters and his research team identified the opioid epidemic as the bigger problem of these two drivers. According to the study, drug-related deaths of middle-aged white men have increased dramatically since 1980.
Obesity was also identified as a main factor in mortality. “We are just starting to see the real health consequences of the obesity epidemic,” Masters wrote. The study found that decades-long progress in fighting heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases has slowed, contributing to the rising death rates.
Dr. Dirk’s opinion
Dr. Dirk agrees with the study’s conclusion that obesity is killing a lot of people. He also believes that, while the drug epidemic is dramatic, obesity affects far more people. There are many more obese people in the US than drug users, and more people die as a result of obesity because of the wide array of health issues it leads to, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
Dr. Dirk believes the drug epidemic is important and must be addressed. However, he feels that obesity is a more pressing issue with a simpler solution. It is high time to make being healthy financially and physically possible for everyone.
When 16-year-old high school student Gabrielle Oliveira first heard about Dr. Dirk, she had already struggled with the negative effects of obesity for years.
From the age of 12, Gabrielle had high blood sugar and cholesterol levels as a result of being overweight. Her obesity also affected her confidence, causing her to feel depressed and avoid social events.
Following her vertical gastric sleeve procedure in August 2016, Gabrielle is a new person.
She lost 71 pounds, bringing her blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control. She now has the energy for regular exercise — especially hiking, her new favorite activity — as well as the motivation to eat a healthy diet.
Most importantly, Gabrielle enjoys a newfound confidence and security in her body. She has become outgoing and open, and at a trim 139 pounds, she wins compliments from strangers and friends alike.
We talked to Gabrielle about her weight loss journey and her experience with Dr. Dirk.
How was your life before the procedure?
Before the surgery, I struggled a lot with my confidence and health. Eating was a way to comfort myself and relieve stress, but it left me wincing at the sight of my body in mirrors and pictures.
I also struggled with health problems. Every doctor warned me that if I didn’t make changes to my lifestyle, I would become diabetic and have heart problems.
What motivated you to have surgery?
I was on the road to permanently destroying my health at only 16 years old. I also hated my body and was not comfortable going out and meeting people. This put a hold of my social life and led to depression.
After a lot of research and many failed diets, my mom and I came across Dr. Dirk. At my first visit to Dr. Dirk’s office, I learned about the surgery options. Dr. Dirk assured me that the procedure would change my life for the absolute best.
The more I learned about the surgery, the more confident I became that this was what I wanted.
How has your life changed since your procedure?
I feel like a completely different person. As far as my health is concerned, I feel great. I lost 71 pounds, my blood sugar levels are normal and my cholesterol has dropped significantly.
Because of my surgery, I am able to do more now. My confidence soars over my former depression and social anxiety, and I’m able to go out and feel confident and happy about the way I’m living and the way my body looks.
How have you changed your diet and exercise?
Before my surgery, eating healthy felt like a chore. It had no effect of my weight, and I would become discouraged. Now eating healthy feels good. It’s something I want to do.
In terms of exercise, I can take my body to the next level. Before the surgery, I didn’t exercise because I just felt sluggish and had no energy. But now I do a lot of aerobic exercise and weight lifting. I feel like my body can handle it.
What kind of response have you gotten from friends and family?
My family and friends have been very supportive. I even get noticed by strangers who compliment me without even knowing about my journey!
How was your experience with Dr. Dirk?
Dr. Dirk gave me so much information and made me feel like I was more than just a patient.
In my visits to his office before the surgery, he told me what the surgery would do and what my life would be like after the surgery. He visited with me frequently after the surgery to make sure everything was good.
During my follow-up visits throughout the year, he checked on my progress and he still continues to educate me on weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle.
How has your outlook on life changed?
When living healthy and treating your body right becomes a priority, you begin to realize that you can take your life to different places. You can do so much more without worrying.
The biggest eye-opener has been being able to exercise and feel good about it. I don’t dread spending an hour and a half at the gym anymore. That experience has shown me that the surgery has changed my life.
Would you recommend weight loss surgery and Dr. Dirk?
Absolutely. Dr. Dirk makes you feel 100 percent comfortable and safe in his hands. Without this surgery, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today. I am living the happiest and healthiest life I could ever live.
More than one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are obese or overweight. There are many health risks that accompany childhood obesity, including cardiovascular disease and prediabetes, but one sometimes-overlooked consequence of obesity is depression.
What is the relationship between childhood obesity and depression, and what steps can you take to treat depression caused by obesity? Here’s what you need to know.
The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Depression
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children (ages 6 to 11) and more than quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12 to 19).
Studies show that children and adolescents who are overweight and obese are at greater risk for social and psychological problems, such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Obese and overweight teens are also more likely to perform poorly in school. Children and adolescents are uniquely susceptible to such problems.
Weight issues aside, adolescence is already a period of vulnerability to the development of psychiatric disorders, including eating disorders, depression and alcohol abuse. Factors such as peer pressure and bullying can contribute to increased stress.
While it is true that findings directly linking obesity and depression are not clear, studies have found that obesity can indirectly lead to depression. Stressful life events like weight-based teasing and victimization can be a significant factor of depression in obese or overweight youth.
And the relationship between depression and weight is mutual. Studies have also overwhelmingly shown that mental health problems such as depression can lead to poor health habits, which can lead to obesity.
Feelings of emptiness prompted by depression or weight can make children or adolescents want to consume sweetened beverages and junk food, which stimulate the release of chemicals that can make them feel better.
The dietary behaviors of children and adolescents depend upon many factors, especially the home and schools. To help your child or adolescent eat healthy, consider these simple guidelines.
Get as much of your nutrition as possible from a variety of completely unprocessed foods.
That means fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats, fish, eggs and grains that have not been processed. When shopping at the grocery store, try to buy ingredients that have not been cooked, prepared or altered in any way.
Of course, there are foods, such as oil or pasta, that you can’t easily make yourself. When it comes to lightly processed foods, aim to eat them less often. Eat heavily processed foods (such as bread, chips, cookies and cereals) rarely, if at all.
Eat home-cooked food as much as possible.
By eating at home, you can avoid processed ingredients more easily (and save a pretty penny). Eating at home makes it more likely that you will eat less.
Do you find it difficult to prepare home-cooked meals? Consider the time-saving technique of meal prepping.
Use salt and fats only as needed in cooking.
Salt and fat aren’t the enemy — you need them in order to prepare delicious food. But the key rule is moderation. Add just enough to bring out the taste, but don’t go overboard.
Be smart about eating out.
We’ve previously discussed tips for making smart decisions when eating out. In addition to strategizing, you should try to eat at restaurants which follow the same rules as above. Try to avoid restaurants with heavily processed, calorie-heavy foods.
Drink mostly water.
Teens often consume high quantities of sugar- and calorie-laden soft drinks, juice drinks and beverages. You can’t do better than drinking water, which keeps your calorie intake much lower and provides numerous other health benefits.
Physical activity and exercise is the second prong of a healthy lifestyle. We have discussed a range of exercises that are appropriate for obese individuals. These include low-impact cardio, such as walking and swimming or water aerobics, and strength training.
By addressing childhood obesity through diet, exercise and, when necessary, surgical procedures, it is possible to avoid the wide variety of health risks that accompany obesity, including depression.