Harvard Men's Health Watch

Obesity and prostate cancer

America is the land of plenty. Unfortunately, however, the good life has some bad consequences. One is obesity. The abundant supply of high-calorie foods and the labor-saving devices that enable sedentary living are the twin engines driving our obesity epidemic. At present, 30% of Americans are overweight, 30% are obese, and 5% are very obese. And if that's not enough to worry about, remember that the prevalence of obesity has increased steadily since the 1960s "" and the nation's waistline continues to grow.

Obesity has emerged as a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, and it's easy to see why. Excess body fat raises LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides while lowering HDL ("good") cholesterol. It raises blood pressure, blood sugar, and insulin levels. Obesity discourages exercise and contributes to stress and depression. Since these changes all increase cardiac risk, obesity deserves a large share of the blame for heart attacks and strokes, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

You can take pills to improve your blood cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, treat diabetes, calm your mind, or lift your spirits. Pills will help protect your heart, but you'll still be obese. But if medications can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, they can't protect you from our second leading killer. Cancer is very different from cardiovascular disease, but obesity also increases the risk of cancer.

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