National Women’s Health Week

May 11, 2015

In case you didn???t know, it???s National Women???s Health Week. As doctor who specializes in obesity medicine, I???m grateful for this event because it gives me the opportunity to encourage women everywhere to take the time to reflect on their health. As a medical provider who specializes in obesity medicine, I specifically want to raise awareness about the specific risks excess weight and body fat pose to women. Sorry guys, you???ll get your turn soon.

First, let???s review the increased health risks of obesity. Numerous studies show a direct correlation between your body mass index (BMI) and your risk for developing additional chronic disease. In other words, the higher your BMI, the more likely you are to suffer from conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer.

In terms of how these risks impact women, I must express my concern. In the BMI category of 30-39, women and men are about equal at 36 percent (not good on both counts). However, in the 40+ BMI category, the rate of women???s obesity is 8 percent, double that of men. I want to share some facts with you on how these obesity rates impact the development of life-threatening conditions:

  • According to new data released from Cancer Research UK, obese women have a 40 percent greater risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. The data indicates that out of 1,000 obese women, 274 will be diagnosed with cancer, compared to 194 women in a group of 1,000 healthy weight women. The figures specifically show that obesity increases risk of at least seven types of cancer, including post-menopausal breast, pancreatic, and colon cancers. The reason for this increased risk is due to the fact that fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen, and high levels of this hormone are associated with the development of cancers.
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. This may come as a surprise because heart disease has long held a reputation as a ???man???s disease???. For women who suffer from obesity, the risk of developing the disease is four times greater. The Nurse???s Health Study II, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women who are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29) are twice as likely as slender women (BMI under 21) to develop heart disease. For women with a BMI over 29, the risk nearly quadrupled.
  • Studies show that after 65 years of age, a higher percentage of women have hypertension than men. Hypertension has many risk factors, including obesity and activity level. People who weigh more need more blood to supply tissues with nutrients and oxygen. As the volume of blood circulated through blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on artery walls. If the pressure becomes too high, it will put you at an elevated risk of stroke.
  • Another serious illness that many women suffer from is diabetes. It???s estimated that 12 million women over the age of 20 have diabetes, and approximately 27 million have pre-diabetes. Women who are overweight, have low activity levels, or have a family history of type 2 diabetes, are at a high risk for developing the disease. The Nurse???s Health Study, which observed 114,000 middle-aged women for 14 years, found that the risk of developing diabetes was 93 times higher for women who had a BMI of 35 or higher at the start of the study, compared with women with BMIs lower than 22.

This week???s message for women is put your health first. See your health care provider and get the support you need to make sure you???re living your best life. It???s never too early or too late to work on being the healthiest you!

In good health,

Dr. Matthew G. Pinto, Medical Director

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