It’s not just how fat you are, but how long you’ve been fat

There is more research out, disseminated by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and based on a 30-year study reported in the July issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The lead author of the piece states that each year of obesity is associated with a 2 to 4 percent higher risk of sub-clinical heart disease.

Sub-clinical heart disease indicates that there is damage to the coronary arteries that may appear as calcium build-up on the arterial walls, but has not yet developed into the classic symptoms of heart disease. The long-term study indicated that those people with long duration of obesity and abdominal obesity tended to have the highest risk for sub-clinical disease.

Among the study participants — those who had been obese over 30 years — 38 percent had calcified arteries.

The real problem is that over the last 30 years, more and more young people are becoming obese at earlier ages and now it is shown that the longer duration of obesity is just as important a health marker as being obese is.

Obesity of course is not just related to heart disease but also to diabetes, other types of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, or high blood pressure, gallstones, degenerative joint disease and mortality.

The rising obesity rates in younger people has been blamed on the information age as people sit for many hours daily in front of screens for information, entertainment and communication.

The statistics are frightening. Almost 13 million (16.9 percent) of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese.

Nearly one in three (31.8 percent) of American children are overweight or obese, and 34.6 percent of American Adults (78 million) are obese, and around 70 percent are overweight or obese. Not a pretty picture. We are a nation of fat people.    

So is it just the cell phones and the iPad? Or is it much more? Are all those adults nailed to their computer screens and iPad too? We eat too much. We eat too much fat, which is stored on and in our bodies as fat. We eat too much sugar and simple carbohydrates which also convert to fat very easily.

We eat artificial sweeteners that make us crave sugar. And, of course, we drink too much alcohol, which converts to fat just like sugar does. And we do not exercise enough.

This is not news, but we must turn this around because most of us are digging our graves with a spoon and leading ourselves into old age — sick and fat.

We must, as a nation and as individuals, become more active, putting down the spoon and taking up some weights. The World Health Organization advocates aerobic exercise every day for at least 30 minutes at a moderate rate in order to be aerobically fit. This will help all of us reduce body fat and improve our resting heart rate.

We should also do at least two or three days a week of full-body, resistance exercises with weights or resistance bands in order to keep our muscles and bones strong. These two types of exercises both improve our blood cholesterol levels as well. Resistance exercise helps raise the good cholesterol (HDLs) and aerobic exercise helps reduce the bad cholesterol (LDLs). All exercise helps us manage blood sugar levels better.

So, it is not the fault of the tech machines — it always comes down to lifestyle choices. We need to move more and eat less, especially eat less junk that has little nutritional value. Stick with greens, fruit, fish, chicken and lean meat, and steer away from processed “food.”

Exercise and eating real food may take a little time away from the computer screen, but you will gain time overall as you will be healthier, more vibrant and have more energy to do fun activities. You also will likely live longer and definitely live better.

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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