Rise in obesity sparks higher disease rate

Americans are succumbing to more diseases even as new treatments have prolonged life expectancy and medical experts here predict the same could happen to Greeks, referencing a recent study led by Professor Kenneth E. Thorpe at Emory University in Atlanta. Health costs are skyrocketing in the US and Europe and analysts attribute at least part of the increase to the rise in the incidence of chronic diseases which they blame on obesity. Other factors are chronic stress, environmental pollution and smoking. For example, the Atlanta study showed that 80 percent of the increase in the cost of treating Type 2 diabetes between 1987 and 2002 was due to the 64 percent increase in the number of people needing treatment during the same period. During the same period, diagnoses of hyperlipidemia (high lipids in the bloodstream) increased fivefold, which accounts for the 90 percent increase in the cost of treatment. «Nowadays we see life expectancy being prolonged and more people being sick,» pediatrics professor Giorgos Chroussos told Kathimerini. He has repeatedly warned of the future dangers of childhood obesity in Greece. «One might expect to see people dying young from obesity, but this does not happen because there are many effective treatments for each symptom,» he explained. «There are statins for cholesterol, several type of drugs for high blood pressure and aspirin to thin the blood. These treatments prolong life, but the problem remains and diseases multiply.» In this respect, Greeks could soon face the same health problems as Americans. A study conducted at Athens University’s First Cardiology Clinic showed that some 2.5 million Greek men and 1.5 million Greek women over the age of 18 are overweight, associate professor Christos Pitsavos, who directed the research, told Kathimerini. And of those numbers 900,000 men and 675,000 women are already obese. «In Greece today, 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women above the age of 18 are obese and 53 percent of men and 30 percent of women are overweight,» Pitsavos said. «And 36 percent of men and 43 percent of women carry extra weight round the abdomen, which is the most dangerous.» The problem intensifies with age, according to Pitsavos. «Most obese individuals eat unhealthy food, lead a sedentary life, drink more alcohol and are less educated,» he said. «Married people are more likely to be overweight than those who are single or divorced, which shows that the problem is associated with lifestyle.» And, he noted, overweight and obese individuals are more prone to high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.