Obesity: What You Need to Know About this Lifestyle Disorder

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Obesity: A preventable lifestyle disorder that claims 4.7 million premature deaths yearly

Obesity (Being Overweight) is a condition involving excessive or abnormal body fat accumulation that increases the risk of health problems. Obesity is not just a cosmetic concern but a medical problem that increases the risk of other health problems (heart disease, diabetes, high BP (Blood Pressure), and certain cancers).

Fast Facts:  

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975
  • 39 million children under 5 were overweight or obese in 2020
  • Obesity is preventable 
  • 13% of adults worldwide are obese, and obesity is responsible for 4.7 million premature deaths yearly

Obesity Causes

Eating more calories than you burn in daily activities on a long-term basis can lead to weight gain and obesity.  

Apart from high-calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle, there are specific causes and health conditions that you cannot control but may lead to obesity.  

Common specific causes of obesity include:  

  1. Genetics: It can affect how your body processes food into energy and how fat is stored
  2. Age: Older age can lead to less muscle mass, a slower metabolic rate, and weight gain
  3. Pregnancy: Weight gain during pregnancy may be challenging to lose and might eventually lead to obesity
  4. Lack of sleep: Hormonal changes due to lack of sleep may make you hungrier and increase your cravings for high-calorie food leading to weight gain and obesity
  5. Hypothyroidism: A condition that is caused due to an underactive thyroid where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of certain essential hormones, which in turn affects the metabolism and leads to obesity
  6. Osteoarthritis: The condition typically characterized by pain that limits your physical activities leading to obesity  
  7. Cushing syndrome: The condition is characterized by having high cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in your system, which affects your metabolism leading to obesity 
  8. Prader-Willi syndrome: A rare genetic condition (present at birth) that causes excessive hunger leading to obesity
  9. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS):  It is a condition that causes an imbalance of female reproductive hormones, which affects metabolism and may, in turn, lead to overweight and obesity

Obesity Diagnosis

Body mass index (BMI) is a tool commonly used to diagnose obesity. It is the weight-for-height ratio, and any adult with a BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.  

Other more accurate measures include:   

  • Waist-to-hip comparisons  
  • Skinfold thickness tests  
  • Screening tests (ultrasounds, CT, and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans)   

Measuring the fat around your waist is also a good predictor of your risk for obesity-related diseases. 

Obesity Complications  

People with obesity are more likely to develop several potentially serious health problems, which include:  

  • Heart disease and strokes: Obesity contributes to high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels, which may lead to heart diseases and strokes. 
  • Type 2 diabetes: Obesity affects how the body uses insulin to control blood glucose levels, raising the risk of diabetes.  
  • Cancers: Being obese may increase the risk of cancer in the women’s reproductive system (uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovary, breast), digestive system (colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney), and others such as prostate. 
  • Digestive problems: Obesity may lead to heartburn and is a risk factor for gallbladder disease and liver problems. 
  • Sleep apnea and other breathing problems: Breathing in people with sleep apnea repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Obesity increases the risk of this condition and other breathing problems. 
  • Osteoarthritis: Being obese stresses weight-bearing joints causing pain and inflammation in joints and bones.  
  • Infertility: Being obese affects the hormonal imbalance in males and females, leading to obesity. 

Obesity Treatment

Obesity treatment plans aim to reach and stay at a healthy weight which helps to lower the risk of health complications related to obesity. Some of the treatment strategies include: 

  • Dietary changes: Reducing calorie intake and practicing healthier eating habits help overcome obesity. Restricting certain foods (sodas and caffeinated drinks) and replacing them with healthier choices (fruit juices) can help improve overall health. 
  • Exercise and activity: Increased physical activity is essential in obesity treatment. Obese people need at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) a week of moderate-intensity physical activity to prevent further weight gain and maintain weight loss.  
  • Weight-loss medications: Weight-loss medications are used along with diet and exercise. These medications may not work for everyone, and the effects may go away over time. 

Endoscopic procedures for weight loss:   

These procedures involve inserting flexible tubes and tools through the mouth into the stomach under the influence of anesthesia. Two main types of endoscopic procedures for weight loss include:  

  • Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty 
  • Intragastric balloon for weight loss 

Weight-loss surgery or bariatric surgery:   

The surgery aims to limit the amount of food intake by decreasing the size of the stomach. These surgeries can also result in nutritional and vitamin deficiencies. 

Common weight-loss surgeries include: 

  • Adjustable gastric banding 
  • Gastric bypass surgery 
  • Gastric sleeve 

Please consult your doctor to know more about obesity, its complications, and treatment options, and find the best treatment plan that suits you.  

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