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Narrator: After years of battling the scale, Deb Nilsen is in the process of saving her life.
Deb Nilsen: My family suffers from heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides By being able to do this I've cut out three different medications….
Narrator: And she now weighs less than she has since age twelve….
Deb Nilsen: This has absolutely saved and improved my life (tenfold).
Narrator: Two thirds of all Americans are overweight. One third of those are obese. The impact on our health is devastating.
Steven Lamm, MD: We have epidemics of hypertension and diabetes and atherosclerosis, and heart disease, cardiovascular deaths, and strokes, and maybe even it will translate into cancer,
because we already know there is a link between obesity and increased risk of many cancers.
Narrator: Excess weight stresses every major system in the body. The heart is one of the most obvious victims.
In the circulatory system cholesterol and blood pressure rises, clogging and hardening arteries….
Excess body fat may also increase certain proteins in the blood that affect its ability to clot, leading to an increased risk of stroke.
Fat can lead to increased male hormones in women, upping the risk for heart disease along with more obvious symptoms.
Brunilda Nazario, MD: They can have excess male pattern type hair, they can have balding, they can have a little excess facial hair, they can have acne.
Narrator: Weight affects another hormone—insulin—leading to insulin resistance and later, diabetes. Diabetes then increases the chance of heart disease, and the circle is complete.
Narrator: The impact on the body doesn't end there. Overweight people often suffer from sleep disorders, like sleep apnea.
Brunilda Nazario, MD: And a drop in your oxygen level certainly has consequences on the heart, the blood vessels, on stroke, on risk of diabetes…
Narrator: And then, of course, there's the structural impact of carrying around too much weight.
Brunilda Nazario, MD: Impact on the knee, creating an increased risk of osteroporosis, increased risk of hip problems, increased back problems in people who are overweight
Narrator: Like many of us who need to drop a few pounds, Deb had developed health issues doctors could trace directly to her weight.
But she took action. She lost 40 pounds over the last year through a combination of diet changes…
Deb Nilsen: I usually eat breakfast in the morning to get a jumpstart on the day so then I'm not feeling hungry by lunch and just want to devour everything.
Narrator: And exercise…especially weight bearing exercise.
Isadore Rosenfeld, MD: Weight is important to control and diet is an important factor in it, but it is very hard to lose weight under any circumstances with diet alone. It has to be accompanied by exercise.
Narrator: And it is success stories like Deb's that has America's doctors hopeful.
Isadore Rosenfeld, MD: You know, if I could put a sign outside my office, it would read, it's never too late.
Narrator: For WebMD, I'm Sandee LaMotte.