Obesity: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Obesity is a condition in which the body weight is higher than normal and poses a significant health risks to the individual. It has wide-ranging effects on several body organs and is a condition of considerable public health importance.
Obesity: Incidence, age and sex
Obesity is a very common condition and has a prevalence of 17% in men and 21% in women in the United Kingdom. Additionally, 46% of men and 32% of women in the UK are overweight. The prevalence of obesity increases with age, however there has been an alarming increase in the number of children with obesity in recent years.
Signs and symptoms of obesity: Diagnosis
Obesity is diagnosed when body weight is inappropriately high for height. It is measured by the body mass index (BMI) which is calculated by dividing weight (in kilograms) by the square of height (in metres). BMI above 30 is considered as obesity while that between 25 and 30 is categorised as overweight. Waist circumference is also used to define what is called abdominal obesity (more than 102 cm in men and more than 88cm in women). Manifestations of obesity are due to complications associated with it.
Causes and prevention of obesity
Obesity occurs because of interplay between an individual’s genetic makeup and his lifestyle. There is certain genetic predisposition for obesity and it often runs in the family. However, the biggest contributor to the rapid surge in obesity epidemic is a modern lifestyle with limited physical activity and consumption of unhealthy carbohydrate and fat rich junk food.
Prevention of obesity can be achieved by lifestyle modifications which primarily include diet and physical exercise. Diet should be balanced with abundance of fibre, fruits, green vegetables, nuts, limitation of caloric intake to an optimum level and appropriate consumption of carbohydrates and saturated fats. Regular physical exercise in form of walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, dance, aerobics, etc is also of crucial importance in preventing weight gain.
Obesity is a risk factor for various diseases mainly diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, fatty liver, gall bladder stones and cancers of the breast, the lung, the colon, the stomach, the prostate and bladder. Obese individuals have a shorter lifespan. Other problems which can be associated with obesity are arthritis of the knees and hips, spinal problems, erectile dysfunction, depression and other psychological problems. In women, obesity may be associated with irregular menstrual cycles (polycystic ovarian disease) and infertility.
The treatment of obesity involves special attention to diet and physical activity (as stated above). Moderate intensity physical exercise for at least 30 minutes daily is required for weight loss. Leisure time and work related activity should be encouraged. This may involve climbing stairs instead of using the elevator and taking a walk to the office. Effective stress management also helps in weight loss. If the desired weight loss is not achieved by diet and exercise in 3 to 6 months, then certain weight loss medicines can be used under close medical supervision. In individuals with very high BMI or with co-existing diseases, bariatric surgery has shown very good results. Bariatric surgery involves reducing the size of stomach by various techniques and causes significant weight loss.