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How Obesity Damages Vision

Bad-news-doc-appointment-small-300x200Obesity rates have nearly tripled globally since 1975. In 2015-2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that 39.8% of adults and 18.5% of children in the U.S. suffer from obesity. Being overweight and obese can affect your quality of life in many ways. Learn more about obesity and how it affects your health, including your eyes.

Obesity In America

It’s no secret that America has a weight problem. Fast-food options are everywhere. Grocery stores carry on-the-go options. Since fast-food options can be unhealthy, it’s easy to make poor food choices. On top of the ease of access to unhealthy food options, our busy lifestyles and list of binge-worthy TV shows give us excuses to skip the gym. So how do you know when your food choices are becoming a problem? And what qualifies someone as overweight or obese?

Am I Obese?

According to the CDC, “Weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese.” Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to identify people as overweight or obese. The CDC offers a tool to help calculate your BMI. Check yours and see where you fall below.

The CDC also breaks down obesity statistics in a variety of ways below.

  • Prevalence of Obesity by Ethnicity
    • 47.0% in Hispanics
    • 46.8% in non-Hispanic blacks
    • 37.9% in non-Hispanic whites
    • 12.7% in non-Hispanic Asians
  • Prevalence of Obesity by Age
    • 20 to 39 years old – 35.7%
    • 40 to 59 years old – 42.8%
    • 60+ years old – 41.0%
  • Prevalence of Obesity by Sex
    • Men
      • Overweight: 38.7%
      • Obesity (including extreme obesity): 35%
      • Extreme obesity: 5.5%
    • Women
      • Overweight: 26.5%
      • Obesity (including extreme obesity): 40.4%
      • Extreme obesity: 9.9%
  • Obesity & Education
    • Education has a negative correlation with obesity. The more education a person has, the less likely they are to have weight issues.
  • Estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. in 2008 – $147 billion
    • Being obese can add $1,429 annually to a person’s medical bills.

Obesity & Health

Our weight can affect our health in many ways. Heart disease, depression, and risk of stroke are all conditions associated with obesity. Musculoskeletal issues can also occur due to weight. Obesity can cause joints to ache and sometimes degenerate. Obesity is even linked to premature death due to its effects on the functioning of vital organs. Considering this, it’s not surprising to hear that carrying too much weight can compromise healthy vision, too.

Obesity’s Effects On Eye Health

Eye health is often overlooked, especially when it comes to diet. Your eyes are very delicate. Their complex internal structure can be easily damaged. When you are overweight or obese, pressure can build in your eyes and harm the fragile blood vessels.  This can lead to a list of eye health issues. The higher your BMI, the more likely you are to develop eye health issues.

Age-Related Eye Health

Many age-related eye health issues are linked to obesity.  Some of those conditions can lead to blindness. Just as poor nutrition can lead to health problems for other parts of your body, it can also affect your eyes. However, proper nutrition, which strengthens your eyes’ macular pigment, can protect your vision. Proper nutrition consists of food containing nutrients like zeaxanthin and lutein, among others. If you don’t eat healthy foods, or at least take eye vitamins, you’re much more likely to develop eye health issues.

Obesity & Cataracts

One of the age-related eye health issues linked to obesity is cataracts. All About Vision states that cataracts are the principal cause of blindness in the world.  There are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

“Although the reason for the link between obesity and cataracts is unclear, researchers believe that maintaining a proper weight may reduce cataract formation by decreasing blood glucose levels, or by improving the antioxidant properties of the blood.”

Health After 50 (with the Scientific American)

The bottom line: obesity is not just being overweight. It can cause many health problems. This means that keeping your weight in a healthy range is worth it – for your body and your eyes. Learn more about keeping your vision healthy in the free ebook below.