Obesity rivals smoking as risk to health

Thursday, January 3, 2013

We hope you haven't given up on your New Year's resolutions yet -- in fact, it's never too late to make one.

Giving up smoking is a "popular," yet difficult resolution to keep, and it's a worthy goal.

But before non-smokers put too much effort into patting themselves on the back, consider the following information, pointed out by the St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island.

One of the most major risk factors for cancer has nothing to do with an addictive behavior, it's something we all have to do to survive: Eating.

Obesity is second only to tobacco as the leading risk factor for cancer -- nearly 30 percent of cancers including breast, colon, esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, uterine and renal, can be attributed to obesity.

Since nearly 36 percent of adults in the United States are obese -- 27.6 percent in Nebraska, up 80 percent over the last 15 years -- it is a major concern.

"Being overweight and inactive can lead to a host of general health problems, but it's also linked to things like increased hormone levels, changes in insulin levels, and chronic hypertension -- all of which put you at higher risk for many types of cancers," said Dr. Melhem Jabbour, medical oncologist at Saint Francis Cancer Treatment Center. "In addition, cancer patients and survivors who are overweight or obese may have a reduced quality of life, diminished prognosis, or higher risk of recurrence than patients who are at a healthy weight."

Because obese people often have other health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease, they have greater risk for developing cancer and higher mortality rates when they do develop the disease.

"The bottom line is that excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle put your health at risk," said Maureen Hilderbrand, Saint Francis Cancer Treatment Center dietician. "Obese individuals suffer from more health complications, and have a 30 percent higher overall mortality rate than healthy individuals."

So if you've given up on that resolution to learn a foreign language or watching less television, consider the following recommendations from the American Cancer Society:

* Get moving. Adults are encouraged to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Whether you're walking your dog or cardio kickboxing, any activity is better than laying on the couch and channel-surfing.

* Eat a healthy diet. Watch your portions, limit red meats and processed foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and choose whole grains. Alcohol and sugars should be consumed in moderation.

* Maintain a Body Mass Index between 18.5 and 24.9. The BMI range of 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight, and 30 or higher to be obese. Check with a health care provider if you are unsure of your BMI.

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