October 26 is observed as World Obesity Day. Obesity is a leading health disorder in today's world, especially in the industrialised countries.
In the US, 69 per cent of the adult population is considered to be obese or overweight. The figures are also high in Canada.
India, despite known to be a developing country with a significant part of its population living below the poverty line, is also catching up fast along with the Chinese population on the scale.
What Is Obesity?
We gain weight when we gain more calories than our body uses it up. If the food we consume provides more calories than what the body requires, the excess gets converted into fat.
In the beginning, the fat cells increase in size, but when they can no longer expand, their numbers grow. If an obese person loses weight, the size of the fat cells decrease but the numbers do not. The condition of obesity creates high risk of serious medical conditions of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and also cancer.
Causes Of Obesity:
Obesity is more than the simple cause of over-eating and under-exercising because of lack of self-control and will power. There are behavioural, genetic, environmental and social factors that are also related to obesity.
Here are some causes of obesity in short:
Lifestyle: Diet and sedentary lifestyle play a major role in causing obesity.
Genetics: The genes also play a big role in the efficiency of the body's metabolism and the storage and distribution of the body's fat. In case any one of one's parents is obese, one has a high risk of becoming obese.
Age: Loss of muscle and slowing down of the metabolism reduce the calorie requirements with growing age and this makes people gain weight.
Emotional: A lot of people eat excessively because of emotional reasons (depression, anger, boredom, etc.) that have very little to do with hunger.
Gender: Women are more vulnerable to obesity, since their body consumes less calories than men who have more muscles that burn more calories. Hence, the same amount of calorie intake makes women obese than men.
Pregnancy: Women gain weight during pregnancy; and if they show tendency of obesity on the top of it, it is a harmful sign.
Socio-economic Factors: If your neighbourhood has too many shops selling junk food and not fresh fruits, your eating habits tend to get ruined.
Environmental: If you have enough people around you who are obese or follow unhealthy lifestyles that make them obese, you also get influenced by them.
Distribution Of Fat: The distribution of body fat also plays an important role in determining your obesity. Excess fat deposit around waist is riskier than the one distributed on the hips and thighs.
Medical Conditions: Cushing syndrome, certain medications, eating disorder like bulimia, etc., can cause obesity.
Symptoms & Complications Related To Obesity:
Here are some symptoms that come with this health disorder:
- Breathing disorders like sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Gallbladder or liver ailments
- Coronary disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Joint ailments like osteoarthritis
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
The diagnosis is done on the basis of physical examination and patient history. A measurement called BMI (body mass index) can be taken though it doesn't measure the body fat directly but it helps in assessing the health risk associated with obesity.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered ideal in terms of health. Anything above 25 is considered overweight and above 30 means obesity is setting in. This doesn't apply to groups like the under-aged, pregnant women, etc.
Here are some ways to treat the problem of obesity:
- Following a weight-management procedure including physical activity, healthy diet and change of daily habits for the better
- Psychological counselling to overcome emotional factors
- Not undertaking crash diet courses but setting realistic goals
- Medical treatment but it has to be combined with the above measures as well.