# Pickwickian Syndrome – Health Disaster Waiting To Happen

Pickwickian syndrome is most likely a condition that you have never heard of before, and is not a common expression. In fact it is not a true medical condition but rather a general name given to people that are overweight to the point where certain other medical conditions are apparent. These conditions are a debilitating obesity which makes it difficult to breathe, hypercapnia which is an excess of carbon dioxide in the blood, and pulmonary hypertension or heart disease. The name is taken from a character in Charles Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers.

Although the fictional character is not real, unfortunately in this country there are many examples of people with pickwickian syndrome. In fact it is all to common to see someone that is so obese that they are in grave danger of having a heart attack at any moment. This is due to a sedentary lifestyle and grossly over indulgent eating habits which have almost become a cliché in this country. In fact, it has been calculated that a full one-third of Americans are obese or nearly so.

What constitues obesity? There is a way to calculate how much overweight a person is using BMI or body mass index. This is an index that is calculated by using a formula which is:

Weight (lb) / [height (in)] 2 x 703

An example a person is 5'8 "tall and weighs 155 pounds, here is the BMI for them:

[155/68 x 68] x 703 = 23.56 which is within the normal range

A person is considered obese is their BMI is over 30. The normal range is between 18.5-24.9 and overweight is anything over 24.9 up to 30 which is obesity. How accurate are these calculations? The CDC has been using this for years, although some argument that a person with an abnormal amount of muscle would weigh more than the typical person even though they have a lower percentage of fat than a typically obese person would.

It is important to point out that BMI is only one guideline used to measure the physical health of a person and of course not the only one. Typically an obese person is very sedentary and does not exercise much if at all, and their body fat content could easily be as high as 40% or more. This invites serious physical diseases and early morbidity, and is probably the most preventable cause of death. In fact, one study noted that men and women who have a body mass index (BMI) over 35 are approximately 20 times more likely to develop diabetes than people with a normal weight (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9).

Other diseases that are caused by obesity are many forms of cancer such as breast, kidney, colorectal, gallbladder, esophageal, and endometrial cancer. Also a major cause of obesity is sleep apnea which is a condition that makes sleep difficult due to increased breathing problems. This is one of the symptoms associated with pickwickian syndrome which is the tendency for obese people to take very shallow, quick breaths which makes it very difficult to get enough oxygen to the heart and is one of the causes of heart disease.