obese

  1. The hidden risks of fatherhood

    You make a lot of sacrifices when you become a parent -- but this is one I'm sure most men never see coming...

    It's the loss of their manhood.

    No, I'm not just talking about the fact that one-time tough guys will coo at a baby, or decorate a nursery in pink.

    I'm talking about real research that reveals a sharp dip in testosterone levels from the moment they hear the words, "It's a boy!"

    Fatherhood can literally cause testosterone levels to plummet by as much as half the moment a child is born. And while it recovers after that (a little bit, anyway), they never quite get their pre-parental mojo back.

    Researchers measured testosterone levels by taking saliva samples from 600 childless men in the Philippines, then repeated those tests for five years. The men who had kids during that time saw their levels plunge by 50 percent in the first month of fatherhood.

    Those who were most involved in physically caring for their child had the biggest drops. (If you ever needed an excuse to skip diaper-change, this is it!)

    Testosterone levels eventually recovered when the children reached toddlerhood — but not completely. Men with kids had 34 percent less testosterone by the end of the study, while men without had drops of just 14 percent (we all lose a little as we age).

    But you don't have to tolerate low testosterone levels, whether you're a dad or not. There are simple steps you can take right now to keep your hormone levels exactly where they need to be.

    First, be sure to get your rest. Testosterone levels can fall by 15 percent after just one week of sleepless nights, according to a recent study.

    Next, lose some weight: Studies have found that overweight and obese men have lower levels of the hormone -- and that those levels rise when the weight comes off.

    Finally, find a safe way to get off the drugs you don't need (and that's nearly all of them). Many come with side effects that are downright emasculating. One recent study found that men who take statins, for example, have double the risk of low testosterone.

    If none of these apply to you, and you're suffering from low testosterone, here's one for you: Emerging research has found that an extract of the spice fenugreek can actually cause free testosterone levels to surge by as much as 96 percent. Read more about it here.

    That's enough to turn you into the manliest dad -- or even granddad -- around.

  2. Extra pounds are extra deadly

    Being a little overweight might not sound as risky as working with explosives or fighting bulls.

    But just as a little bit of dynamite – or one angry bull – can kill you, so can those few extra pounds, because a new study finds that even slightly overweight people have a higher risk of death.

    Researchers looked at data on nearly 1.5 million people who took part in 19 long-term studies that lasted up to 28 years, then matched weight levels to death records.

    The researchers found the lowest death risk among those highest in the “normal” category – patients with BMIs between 22.5 and 24.9, or right up to the line that separates them from the overweight.

    But cross that line, and BOOM! Those explosives go off.

    People in the next category up – “overweight” – had a 13 percent higher risk of death, even if they didn't smoke or suffer from heart disease at the start of the study.

    After that, as you might expect, it was off to the races: Patients between 30 and 34.9 (“obese”) had a 44 percent increase in death risk, while patients in the 35 through 39.9 category were 88 percent more likely to die.

    And those over 40 – the morbidly obese – had a 250 percent increased risk of death from any cause, according to some pretty heavy reading in the New England Journal of Medicine.

    In all, every five points up on the BMI chart lead to an increase in death risk by nearly a third. Naturally, it was accompanied by an increased risk of death by heart disease – from 25 percent for those between 25 and 27.4 to more than quadruple the risk for the morbidly obese.

    On the other hand, the study also found there’s such a thing as too thin: People below 20 on the BMI charts had between a 14 and 47 percent increased risk of death – a risk that got bigger as the people got smaller.

    But that’s not really a problem for most Americans – because 63 percent of us are either overweight or obese.

    That means the average American now faces an above-average death risk – and new numbers on longevity show that it might already be having a statistical impact: Our life expectancy actually dropped in 2008, down to 77.8 years from 77.9 in 2007.

    There have only been two other drops in life expectancies over the past two decades: very slight dips in 2005 and 1993. The current one could be a one-time fluke like those… or a sign of things to come.

    Stay tuned.

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