Monday, October 13, 2014

Obesity and Respiratory Diseases

October is Healthy Lung Awareness Month! 

Obesity is one of the most important causes of several chronic disorders and health conditions including Lung Diseases. Estimates suggest that over 1.6 billion adults worldwide are overweight, of which around 300 million are obese. According to the estimates of the World Health Organization, 10% of the global population will be obese by 2015.

300 million people are obese! I was one in that 300 million! That is 300 million people that at some point are going to spend way more time in the doctors office or hospital instead of home with their families.

The effects of obesity on the respiratory system are often underappreciated. Obesity plays a key role in the development of obstructive sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome. Asthma is more common and often harder to treat in the obese population. The compounding effects of obesity on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the paradoxical interaction of body mass index and COPD are severe. 

Everyone needs a greater understanding of the effects of obesity on the respiratory disease and the provision of adequate health care resources, diet and exercise is vital in order to care for this increasingly important patient population.

Weight gain and rising BMI are associated with decreases in lung volumes, which are reflected by a
more restrictive ventilatory pattern on spirometry. There are two distinct patterns of obesity that are recognized in the general population: central and peripheral obesity. Central obesity is more common in males, with increased adipose tissue in the anterior chest wall, anterior abdominal wall, and visceral organs. Peripheral obesity is more common in women than men, with adiposity located peripherally in the subcutaneous tissue. Excess weight on the anterior chest wall due to obesity lowers chest wall compliance and respiratory muscle endurance with increase in work of breathing and airway resistance.

So what does all this mean? The more weight you carry, the more your lungs have to work. Being obstructed causes more work being done, thus putting stress on all of your other organs too. You do not realize that eating those extra cookies or slices of cake not only puts weight on, but your vital organs are taking quite a toll.

Why do respiratory problems occur with obesity?

With the rise of weight and BMI the lung volumes decreases. This leads to more restricted air entry. There is lowered:-

  • forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1)
  • forced vital capacity (FVC)
  • functional residual capacity (FRC)
  • expiratory reserve volume (ERV)
  • residual volume (RV)
  • total lung capacity (TLC)

Fat distribution and respiratory problems

Obesity around the abdomen further leads to worsening lung function and respiratory symptoms. Lower body fat deposition is less associated with respiratory symptoms in comparison.

It is hypothesized that deposition of fat tissue in the abdominal wall and around the abdominal organs hampers movement of the diaphragm and reduce the lung expansion during inspiration and reduced lung capacity.

The function of the respiratory muscles also deteriorates in obese patients much like in respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).

Obesity affects the respiratory system health adversely in more ways than one. Some of the health effects of obesity on respiratory system include diseases like:-

  • Exertional dyspnea – This is basically severe breathlessness caused due to minor exertions. This is a common feature among obese individuals.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome – This condition leads to closing or narrowing of the airways during sleep leading to snoring, repeated waking and lack of adequate and restful sleep.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma – Obese patients are more at risk of asthma exacerbations. Studies show the prevalence of asthma is higher by 38% in overweight patients and by 92% in obese patients. Obese patients with asthma also get more acute attacks, need more asthma medication, need more frequent visits to the emergency department (ED), and have more hospital admissions than non obese patients with asthma.
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome – Obese individuals have low lung reserve and may thus have difficulty in providing enough oxygen for their body. This may lead to hypoxia or low oxygenation of the body.
  • Pulmonary embolism – This is a serious condition where a blood clot gets lodged in the blood vessels of the lungs leading to a life threatening medical emergency. Pulmonary embolism may lead to failure and death.
  • Aspiration pneumonia – Due to the short and narrowed airways there is a possibility of the stomach contents moving into the lungs. This causes severe pneumonia caused by the harmful stomach acids.
Overweight and obesity, as well as their related chronic diseases, are largely preventable. Each individual can make the choice to stop the bad habits they are so used to and create better habits that will stay with them for a lifetime. People can achieve energy balance and a healthy weight by limiting energy intake from total fats and shifting fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats - increasing their consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts - limiting their intake of sugars and increasing physical activity.

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days - more activity may be required for weight control.

It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle

Making healthy lifestyle choices has benefits at any age. Being more active, eating a balanced diet and becoming more aware of your health can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.

So in honor of those who struggle, fight daily, in honor of those who stay strong everyday - Any Challenge Pack (fitness program of your choice & 30 day supply of Shakeology) purchased 10/13/14 - 10/31/14 through me and my website as your FREE Beachbody Coach - a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the American Lung Association to continue the research and the fight against all respiratory diseases. When you order, just send me a message "Lung Warriors" at or on Facebook "Kristin Palapoli Nicolellis" - so the donation can be made.

My next Challenge & Accountability Group will be starting October 27th. Reserve your spot early!!

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