What Do You Know About Obesity?
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shone the spotlight on several health and lifestyle diseases that have taken the proportions of a global epidemic. One such condition is obesity, which refers to excess fat in the body. This additional fat may be a key reason for a number of lifestyle-related diseases, such as blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Research shows that the complications of obesity around the world has almost tripled between 1975 and 2016. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2.8 million people die directly or indirectly as a result of obesity.
How big is the obesity problem in India?
Obesity is an epidemic in itself and there is research to support it. Here is a prediction of the future scenario of obesity in India.
As you see, the importance of understanding and reversing obesity can’t be stressed enough. So it is essential to understand this condition, its ill-effects, causes, and factors to take into account while managing obesity.
What are overweight and obesity?
Both overweight and obesity can be defined as conditions characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the body. When you consume more calories than your body burns, or in other words, when your energy intake is more than your energy output, it creates an energy imbalance, which causes your body to store the excess energy in the form of fat. Over a period of time, the surplus fat continues to accumulate in the body and the extra kilos keep adding up.
Generally, in men the fat accumulation is primarily around the waist while for women, it is around the hips.
How to measure if one is overweight or obese
The main difference between overweight and obesity lies in the measure of your Body Mass Index (BMI) that can help determine if you have excess body weight. It is a measure of a person’s weight (kilograms) divided by the square of their height (meters).
In simple terms, BMI is your weight in the context of your height. For example, a person who is 5ft tall and weighs 60kg may fall in the overweight category, while a person who is 5’5 and weighs 60kg may fall in the healthy weight category. BMI categorizes body weight into the following categories:
- Healthy weight
A person with a BMI higher than 25 is considered overweight, and a person with BMI over 30 is considered obese.
That being said, this measurement method is intended for international use. Asians tend to have 3%-5% higher total body fat, thus elevating their risk for weight-related health conditions. So, the cut-off points for Asians are slightly lower. The following image provides the BMI ranges for Asians:
Although this BMI calculation has certain drawbacks, it is still a primary tool used to assess obesity.
Why is obesity so harmful?
The complications of obesity can not only result in chronic physical health problems, but can also cause poor mental health outcomes, all of which can severely affect one’s quality of life. So obesity is considerred to be a serious health condition.
Obesity can also result in a build-up of fatty deposits on the lining of your arteries. Over time, this can cause clogging of the arteries. If arteries carrying blood to the heart get clogged, it can lead to coronary artery disease or heart attack. While the arteries that supply blood to the brain get clogged, it can cause a stroke. Similar damage to the blood vessels of the kidney can lead to chronic kidney disease.
Also read: Stroke: When You Need to Act F.A.S.T
The fat directly under the skin that you can feel is known as subcutaneous fat, which is less harmful than visceral fat that is present in areas surrounding your internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, and heart. Excess visceral fat can impair the proper functioning of your hormones and increase the risk of elevated blood cholesterol and blood pressure as well as type-2 diabetes.
Causes of obesity
Before we can move to address the condition, it will be helpful to identify the causes of obesity. Although obesity management would require you to make many lifestyle changes, pinpointing its causes will help you take more precise measures and give you optimal results.
For example, if you have been dealing with poor sleep and chronic stress, which may have contributed to obesity, you may need to adopt some effective stress management techniques and take steps to develop a good sleeping pattern along with adjusting your diet and incorporating regular physical fitness activities. A person who may have an underlying health condition may need to take measures to address it, while also incorporating healthy lifestyle changes.
Here are some of the common factors that contribute to obesity. Check to see if one or more of these factors are prevalent in your life and may play a role in the development of obesity:
What should we remember while dealing with obesity?
Blame and judgment are often the primary responses to obesity. This can often lead to individuals, who are overweight or obese to feel victimized and often discriminated against. One of the things to keep in mind is that like any other health condition, obesity is not an individual’s personal failing and needs to be dealt with a complete understanding of its causes, effects, and what people can do for effective obesity management.
Obesity is a complex condition and is a result of multiple parameters influencing its development. However, it’s very important to keep in mind that the health complication of obesity is not a result of simply overeating. It is also affected by a multitude of factors — from your genes to level of physical activity, sleep, certain health conditions, and stress.