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Those Extra Pounds are Killing You

Those Extra Pounds Are—Literally—Killing You

A new study reveals that obesity is the leading cause of preventable life-years lost in the United States. But that’s not the only issue threatening your life.

Obesity steals more years than diabetes, tobacco, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—the other top preventable health problems that cut Americans’ lives short, according to researchers who analyzed 2014 data.

A team of doctors from Cleveland Clinic and New York University School of Medicine have found that obesity resulted in as much as 47 percent more life-years lost than tobacco, and tobacco caused similar life-years lost as high blood pressure.

Based on this preliminary work, the team, led by Glen Taksler, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, found the greatest number of preventable life-years lost were due to, in order from greatest to least: Obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The silver lining with these results is the clinical and public health achievements of smoking cessation efforts: Fifteen years ago, tobacco would have topped this list. Thankfully, three of these maladies—diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—are treatable with medication.

“Modifiable behavioral risk factors pose a substantial mortality burden in the U.S.,” said Taksler. “These preliminary results continue to highlight the importance of weight loss, diabetes management, and healthy eating in the U.S. population.”

Let’s look at each issue Dr. Taksler warns will cut your life short and what you can do to fight back:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one-third of adults in the U.S. are considered obese. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008. Astonishingly, the medical costs for people who are obese are approximately $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Carrie Dennett, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist, tells the Tampa Bay Times, “If you want to get healthy, be healthy, and stay healthy, focus on health-promoting behaviors.” She stresses that health is something that’s ours to be lost or gained based on the sum of our actions.

A healthful diet and regular physical activity are important for protecting health and preventing disease she says. Physical activity doesn’t have to come from just gym workouts or other planned activity, either. Anything that gets you out of your chair makes a difference.

If you’re having trouble getting motivated, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your weight and what it means for your health. He or she can discuss possible disease risks specific to your weight and overall health and suggest ways to bring healthy habits into your daily life—leading to a happier and longer life.


The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes while another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

A simple blood test performed at your doctor’s office can determine if you are at risk for, or already have, diabetes. Before patients develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have a condition known as prediabetes—blood glucose levels higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can dramatically decrease the risk of developing additional complications of the disease. While there’s no cure for type 2 diabetes, there are many ways it can be managed. Working with your care team, which may include your doctor, a dietitian, a pharmacist, and nurses, you’ll learn how to care for your body and stay healthy.

Tobacco Use

The public has long known about the dangers that come with smoking. Tobacco use seriously impacts the health of the smoker and family and friends who are exposed to second-hand smoke. According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, more than 20 million smoking-related deaths have occurred in the United States since 1964; 2.5 million of those deaths were among non-smokers who died from exposure to secondhand smoke. During that same time, 100,000 babies died due to parental smoking—including smoking during pregnancy.

Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Counselling and medication can more than double the chance that a smoker who tries to quit will succeed.

If you want to quit smoking, or haven’t had luck in the past, CCHC offers FREE smoking cessation classes as part of a community awareness program. Instructor Dr. Ronald Preston has helped hundreds of people successfully break the smoking habit by sharing valuable information about addiction as well as links between smoking and life-threatening diseases.

For more information and dates of the next session call Stacie Barnett at (252) 672-9690.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because you may not be aware you have it. You may never experience symptoms, so don’t wait for your body to alert you there’s a problem. If left untreated, high blood pressure can cause heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and other serious health problems.

One in three adults suffer from high blood pressure—that’s approximately 70 million people. Unfortunately, less than half of those with high blood pressure have the issue under control. Your doctor can help you with medication to fight the condition, but you can also help by exercising for at least 30 minutes several days a week and eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol affects one in three American adults. A simple blood test is the only way to know if you have high cholesterol. Many people don’t realize their cholesterol is too high because usually no symptoms are present. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol levels checked by your doctor.

Based on your test results your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering statin medicines. Make sure you understand instructions for taking medication because it won’t work if you don’t take it as directed.

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults aged 20 years or older have their cholesterol checked every five years.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting

(Sources: Cleveland Clinic; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Cholesterol Education Program; WebMD; National Institutes of Health; Tampa Bay Times; Chicago Tribune.)