Obesity – the lifestyle disease
Let’s start with the shocking fact. Nearly 39% of the human population around the globe is overweight and out of which 15% is obese. Out of these, the highest number of obese people is in the US. Obesity is a lifestyle disease can causes a number of other health problems like hypertension, stroke, and liver damage as well. It is the leading cause of death in the US.
A person with a body mass index of 30 or more is considered obese. This extra fat around the body signifies fatty and inflammation causing substances in the blood, which leads to problems like diabetes, high cholesterol and fatty liver.
Body mass index is a tool which takes the height and weight of the person into account and estimates the ideal weight. High BMI indicates high fat content in the body.
BMI = body weight (in kgs)/ (height) ^2 (in mtrs)
If BMI is < 18.5 , the person is underweight If BMI lies between 18.5 to 25 , the person is in normal range If BMI lies between 25 to 29.5 , the person is overweight If BMI lies between 30 to 34.5, the person is obese (type 1) If BMI is > 35 , the person is morbidly obese (type 2)
Along with BMI, waist circumference is also taken into account when determining whether the person is obese or not. Waist circumference gives an idea about the fat deposited at the abdomen, which is a leading characteristic of obese people.
Men, with a waist measuring more than 40 inches are considered obese
Women, with a waist measuring more than 35 inch are considered obese
What causes obesity?
There are different reasons leading to obesity from a sedentary life style to genetics.
Unhealthy eating habits: people these days are consuming more food than the earlier generations. Most of this food is high in saturated/Trans fat and sugar which leads to weight gain and hence fat percentage increases. Even a small serving of junk food will be packed with huge amount of calories.
Lack of physical exercise: increased use of technology like laptop, iPods and Xbox has made the lifestyle very sedentary. People choose spending time indoors instead of exercising. Exercise helps in burning unwanted calories in the body. When the calorie intake becomes more than what is actually needed, it leads to weight gain. 60 minutes of moderate exercise everyday helps in burning those unwanted calories and depleting the fat reserve.
Lack of sleep: sleep has a deep co relation with obesity. Lack of sleep over a continuous period of time disturbs the equilibrium of the hormones in the body. It also results in over production of GHRELIN hormone that stimulates the appetite, and decreased production of LEPTIN, the hormone responsible to suppress the appetite.
Prolong illness: with prolong illness like hypertension, PCOS, diabetes and depression comes prolong use of medication; which in turn leads to weight gain. People who are more inclined towards being overweight and obese should also prefer alternative medicines and therapies to treat illness.
Genes: in recent studies conducted it was concluded that the gene FTO is the main reason for obesity. People having this gene in their DNA are more attracted towards salty and starchy food and hence more prone to being obese.
Obesity and children
The disease has grown its root so deep in our lifestyle that even the children are getting affected by it. So much so, that nearly 20% of children in US are either overweight or obese. With every passing year this number is rising. Hence these children are more prone to physical problems like high cholesterol, diabetes; and mental issues like low self esteem and depression. Unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical exercise are 2 of the main reasons for this condition among children. At times unbalanced hormones can also trigger unexplained weight gain among children. A simple blood test can diagnose any imbalance in the blood. If a child is overweight, the first thing for the parent to do is be supportive. It is more difficult for the child to be in that phase.try and understand the child; and make sure to involve the whole family in eating and exercise routines so that the child doesn’t feel alienated.
Treatment for obesity
Obesity can usually be managed and treated with weight loss and healthy eating habits. In extreme cases, medication and surgery are also of great help.
Changes in diet: opting for foods like fruits, vegetables and pulses which are rich in nutrients and low in calorie is advised. Foods which are high in sugar and fats should be strictly avoided.
Exercise regularly: for losing 1 pound, you need to burn 3500 calories. Make sure to get 60 minutes of moderate exercise in the day. Make exercising a habit. Instead of talking the elevator, go for stairs.
Medication: if a person has a BMI over 27, and has health conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea; the doctors usually resort to medications. These medicines assist in weight loss, though the weight tends to come back after the use of these medicines is stopped.
Bariatric surgery: for patients who are morbidly obese and are facing serious health problems, bariatric surgery is the only option. In this procedure, the size of stomach and small intestine is reduced which leaves the patient incapable of consuming too much food and hence losing weight. Out of 20 million people being obese in US, only 1% undergoes this procedure.
Obesity is the reason of the life style that we have evolved to. Its increasing number is a signal for us to change our life style, eat our green, ditch the fats and lead an active lifestyle.