Imagine waking up one morning realizing that you have soiled your sheets and are unable to speak or move one side of your body. After realizing you just had a stroke, you are grateful that you are still alive, but now your future seems more frightening than ever. The dangers of obesity have already warned you…

Unfortunately, the dangers of obesity are not taken seriously until it is far too late, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The classical clinical conditions associated with obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease possibly do not concern those with these diagnoses because there are not overt symptoms in the early phases of disease. Rarely, can you tell when your blood sugars or pressure is too high, unless it is checked. Because symptoms are minimal and mild in the early stages of disease, the dangers of obesity may seem less frightening. The “It won’t happen to me” thought sets in.

While symptoms are limited, signs are rampant. The most obvious sign being your weight.

Being overweight (body mass index between 18.5 and 25) or obese (body mass index greater than 25) is a sign that cannot be ignored. A sign that can be checked with regular doctor’s visits.

I have seen it in my young career as a physician that sees many post-stroke patients. In most cases, many patients who have a stroke are indeed overweight and have poorly controlled blood pressures and blood sugars. Some are lucky to only have mild, sometimes temporary symptoms of a stroke, and others have more tragic outcomes.

Prevention is absolutely key in reducing the rates of disability. Sure, there are unfortunate events that cannot be prevented, but becoming handicapped from a medical condition that could have been prevented or properly treated is not necessary.

Prevention begins with weight loss, in particular, dietary improvements. I have heard my share of excuses of why it may be difficult to exercise, but following the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommendations to eat half a plate of fruits and vegetables, one-fourth a plate of a whole grains and one-fourth a plate of a lean meat is a practical, reasonable lifestyle change. This should be your absolute baseline and rule for eating to prevent the dangers of obesity.

Although exercising is beneficial for weight loss, exercise is meant to improve how your body functions on a daily basis. Regular exercise keeps your muscles, heart and brain fresh. The healthier your organs are, the less prone they are to disease and dysfunction.

Think of it as saving up for retirement. If you don’t make these small investments into your life now, there will not be much left in years to come.

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