Can you be obese and still be healthy?

obese and healthy

Obesity is a widespread condition in the U.S. About 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are obese, meaning that their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher.

In recent years, some people have said that it’s possible to be healthy and obese at the same time. The reasoning for this is that certain obese people don’t show the metabolism changes that usually come with obesity.

According to a new study from the University of Birmingham, however, the idea that a person can be both obese and healthy is a dangerous myth.

“Healthy” obesity is a myth

In the past, doctors relied on measurements like blood pressure and cholesterol levels to say whether someone was healthy or not. Some obese people don’t have the elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels that you might expect for someone of their weight.

But the University of Birmingham study, which followed the health records of 3.5 million people for 20 years, shows that these seemingly healthy numbers don’t mean that these people are actually healthy.

Obesity increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Contrary to claims of “healthy obesity,” this University of Birmingham study showed that obese people are greater risk for certain diseases.

Compared to people with a normal weight and a healthy metabolism, obese people are at a 49 percent increased risk of heart disease and a whopping 96 percent increased risk of heart failure.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, the health effects of obesity go beyond heart disease. Obesity has also been linked to cancer, liver failure, spine pain and even mental disorders, such as depression.

According to Dr. Dirk, this study is very important because it ends the myth that a person can be obese and still be healthy. “Obesity is a real medical condition in which which your body is not working effectively for you,” says Dr. Dirk.

The best solution is to tackle the core problem of weight. Making changes to your lifestyle, particularly changes in diet and physical activity, can do the trick. However, for some people, obesity surgery is the best and most realistic option.

“Surgery helps make good nutrition and exercise work better for you. It’s all about making you a healthy person,” Dr. Dirk says.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards living a healthy life, schedule an appointment with Dr. Dirk today.


New study shows lack of fitness connected to risk of heart failure

heart failure

According to a new study from UT Southwestern, reduced cardio-respiratory fitness in individuals with high body-mass index (BMI) is responsible for heart failure.

For years, we have known that individuals who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk for health problems. “Morbid obesity is a medical condition that affects the entire body,” says Dr. Dirk. One of the problems obesity can cause is heart disease.

Now, we have a better understanding of the link between a high BMI and heart trouble. This study found that a low level of fitness — not obesity itself — is the direct cause of heart failure.

In the study, which included 20,000 individuals, doctors found that low cardio-respiratory fitness (meaning the health of the heart, lungs and circulatory system) accounted for 47 percent of the risk of heart-failure hospitalization associated with increased BMI.

The study also found that once low cardio-respiratory fitness is accounted for, changes in BMI do not have a significant association with heart failure risk.

In other words, because low cardio-respiratory fitness (not high BMI) is the direct cause of heart problems, individuals can reduce their risk of heart problems by getting more physically fit. If they do that, changes in BMI (a.k.a. losing weight) have minimal effect on the risk of heart problems.

Because of this finding, the doctors conclude that the “priority should be placed on improving cardio-respiratory fitness over decreasing BMI.”

However, as we’ve discussed on this blog many times, fitness often goes hand in hand with weight. Overweight and obese individuals tend to have less energy, making it harder to do regular physical exercise. Without regular exercise, overall cardio-respiratory fitness declines. And, as the study shows, low cardio-respiratory fitness results in increased risk for heart failure.

Dr. Dirk recommends regular physical activity — along with a low-carb, high-protein diet — for losing weight and keeping it off. However, losing weight and keeping it off also lends itself to regular physical activity, because the body is in better shape to handle the stress of exercise.

It’s important to remember that overweight and obese individuals are at greater risk for other health problems in addition to heart disease.

“Obesity is a total body condition,” says Dr. Dirk. “Beyond heart failure, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, joint pain and even cancer.”

Because high BMI is associated with a range of health problems, it’s important to address the root of the problem by losing weight with a healthy diet, regular exercise and, if needed, additional help through weight loss surgery.


Even After Weight Loss, Obesity Can Reduce Lifespan

Obesity Can Reduce LifespanIf weight loss is something you’ve been putting off, a new study may give you a reason to reconsider. Carrying any extra weight at any point in your life can detrimentally shorten your lifespan, according to a new study by the Boston University of Public Health.

People who were obese for any part of their lives were 65 percent more likely to die in the time allotted by the study, and those who had been severely obese were 150 percent more likely to die. Even if the study participants had since lost the weight, their chances of dying remained the same.

The study organized subjects by their Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement that relates height to weight in a universal way. It’s the same method Dr. Dirk uses to determine patient health. A person’s BMI is determined by their weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters.

If that sounds like a lot of math, there are several calculators online, like this one. Once you have your BMI, you can determine where you fall on the normal-to-obese spectrum.

Unfortunately, according to the study, everyone who was not a normal weight — a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 — for most of their lives was found to be at risk.

“If your BMI is 30 or greater, you are in the obese category. There is no arguing with that number,” Dr. Dirk says. “If you find your BMI is 30 or greater, it is time to do something.”

So how can you better your odds? Dr. Dirk, a Bariatric Surgeon in Dallas, Texas,  says the answer is obvious. The sooner you can get out of the obese range, the better. Eat a healthy diet and exercise often to get within the normal weight range.

“If that does not work, it is time to seriously consider obesity surgery options,” Dr. Dirk says. “Obesity shortens your life. The science about obesity surgery is very clear: people who have obesity surgery live longer, healthier lives than people who do not.”