Over the past two decades the United States has experienced an epidemic of obesity and obesity related disease. Last week I wrote about a study busting the myth of the “healthy obese.”
Being obese is more than just holding a few extra pounds; it means being at risk for early onset of serious diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and being at risk for early death. Today, we’ll build on this by examining the link between the obesity epidemic and a new epidemic of prescription drug overuse.
Study: Prescription drug overuse too prevalent
Between the years 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, there was an escalation in overall prescription drug use. The year 1999-2000 saw 51% of US adults using prescription drugs, whereas by 2011-2012 that number jumped 8% to 59%. 1
What we can identify from the study is that a good portion of the most commonly used drugs are related to syndrome x, which is linked to lack of exercise and obesity.
This is disturbing given so much media attention and education about weight loss, exercise, eating whole organic foods, and overall messages of lifestyle improvement related to better health and wellbeing — but also because researchers found that the number of individuals taking five or more drugs concurrently (a practice known as polypharmacy) increased from 8.2% to 15% during the same period. That’s a near doubling of doctors prescribing handfuls of prescriptions to single patients!
Is this medical error, over diagnosis, or indicative of an ailing population in early life due to lifestyle choices?
Overuse reflects Syndrome X (metabolic disorders)
The risk factors of syndrome x, also known as insulin resistance syndrome and metabolic syndrome, include the following:
Excessive Belly Fat: This is often termed “apple shaped obesity” or “abdominal obesity,” and is an indicator of elevated risk of heart disease.
Elevated Blood Sugar: Raised blood sugar levels over time can lead to diabetes and obesity.
Elevated triglyceride levels: These are the fats that are found in the blood.
High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure above a 120/80 reading is considered high and can lead to hypertension and heart disease.
Low HDL cholesterol levels: This is the “good” type of cholesterol needed to help remove the bad (LDL) cholesterol from our arteries. Low HDL increases your risk of developing heart disease.
Syndrome-x points to is a direct link between poor health, obesity, prescription drug overuse, and lifestyle choices.
High cholesterol and acid reflux are associated with poor diet.
Depression is related to many things, including obesity and self-esteem issues relating to self-image.
Muscle relaxants are related to stress, too much weight placed on joints, and limited range of motion associated with lack of exercise.
The good news is that these issues are reversible.
What you can do
This significant rise in use of prescriptions drugs is an alarm that adults in the United States are not caring for themselves in proactive ways. We are much less healthy than adults in other first world countries. But we can turn this around with some basic strategies.
We must defeat the obesity epidemic. This can be done by pulling our will power, gaining support, and setting ourselves to the daily task of watching what we consume, how much we consume, and how often we exercise.
Exercise and diet are the keys, the no-cost solutions, to lowering high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and reducing risk of osteoarthritis, syndrome x, overuse of prescription drugs, and early death.
We also need to get ample sleep, meditate, walk and relax each day in some way, to help reduce the need for prescription drugs related to stress, chronic pain, anxiety, heart disease, and obesity. You can read more about the essential need for sleep as it relates to health in my article “Sleep to avoid a dangerous 3-punch combo to your life.”
My good friend Dr. Michael Cutler has recently released a book called The Insulin Factor. To fully understand the major role insulin, your body’s metabolic mediator has on your overall health — not just diabetes — you may want to check it out.
I know it seems like there may be nothing you can do, or you’ve tried it all, and prescription drugs are your only hope. I’ve been there too, and it’s so easy to slip back into the victim stance. But I’m here to tell you that with some resolve, support from friends, family and maybe a fitness or dietary coach, and an action plan, you can reverse these nasty conditions, reduce your prescription use, increase your vitality, and extend your life.