Obesity contributes to a plethora of serious health concerns—what are the risks and complications associated with the condition?
According to the NHS, one in every four adults and one in every five children aged 10 to 11 is obese. With the daily conveniences and speed of modern living, consuming more calories from sugary and fatty foods than the body is able to burn off through physical activity can cause the body to store excess fat. For such an increasingly common problem, the risks associated with obesity are unprecedented.
As well as causing severe health conditions, being obese can seriously impact daily life. Problems include:
- Heavy sweating
- Joint and back pain
- Finding physical activity difficult
- Low confidence and self-esteem
- Conception and pregnancy difficulties
Being obese can also increase the risk of developing serious—and even life- threatening—health complications. Some risks of being overweight are:
Heart disease and stroke. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol—where deposits of fat narrow and clog the arteries. Both of these conditions make heart disease and strokes more likely.
Type 2 diabetes. Around 85 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to become too high and can be deadly. Sugary foods and excess weight can progress diabetes.
Cancer. Obesity is so far linked to cancers of the breast, colon, bowel, womb, kidney and oesophagus.
Gallstones. Gallstones are small stones of cholesterol that can become trapped in an opening inside the gallbladder. Gallstones and gallstone disease—persistent abdominal pain, jaundice and fever—are more likely when a person is overweight.
Osteoarthritis and gout. These painful conditions affect the joints and their likelihood correlates with increasing weight gain. Joint problems can wear away protective cartilage and cause uric acid to deposit crystals in the joints.
Liver and kidney disease. Being obese can cause a buildup of fat in the liver and can also cause the kidneys to stop working properly. These conditions are, in turn, associated with their own risks—such as diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.
Depression. Psychological struggles, such as depression and anxiety, are not uncommon in those who are overweight. These problems can also affect a person’s relationship with family and friends.
Whilst there is no quick treatment for obesity and lifestyle habits are difficult to break, losing weight safely can reduce the risks associated with being overweight. The NHS states that to lose weight at a sustainable and safe rate, most people will be advised to reduce their energy intake by 600 calories a day. For men, this means eating around 1,900 calories a day, and for women around 1,400 a day. Sourcing these calories from healthy foods is essential, and reducing salt intake will also decrease dangerous levels of blood pressure. Physical activity is also important for maintaining a healthy weight and burning energy. Exercise itself can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 40 percent, and can also speed up weight loss and make the body stronger. It is recommended that adults complete 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Alternatively, discuss the possibility of weight loss surgery—or medication—with a doctor.
Other strategies for healthy weight loss include:
- Making an action plan and setting realistic goals.
- Eating slowly and listening to the body.
- Avoiding situations that will create temptation.
- Joining a local, or online, weight loss group.
- Involving family members and friends.
- Monitoring progress.
- Understanding that setbacks are okay.
Calculate your BMI
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of obesity is abody mass index (BMI) that is greater or equal to 30. BMI is the most widely used method to classify a person’s health in relation to their weight. BMI should only be used as a guide as it does not always account for muscle mass or fat distribution. Measuring the circumference of the waist can be used as an additional measure in those who are overweight or obese.
To calculate your BMI:
- Divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres.
- Then, divide the answer by your height again to get your BMI.
Did you know?
On average, obesity reduces life expectancy by 3-10 years and contributes to 1 in every 13 deaths in Europe
This article was originally published in Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones. Read the digitial edition, here.