Obesity is on the rise in the United States. It is caused by an increase in size and number of fat cells. A scale called Body Mass Index (BMI) is used as a measure to calculate obesity. A normal BMI is 20 or less but a BMI greater than 30 indicates obesity. Obesity is a serious condition with several causes and health complications.
Causes of obesity include:
- lack of sleep
- unhealthy diet
- sedentary lifestyle and inactivity
- changes in hormones within the body
- sometimes, hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome.
There are different types of fat in different areas of the body. Three types of fat are brown, white and beige. The body uses these stores of fat to fuel the body, regulate body temperature, and store energy for later use. Fat builds up when there are more calories coming into the body than what is being used for energy. Brown fat builds up in the belly area in and around organs. Belly fat is more dangerous than the other two. It interferes with the endocrine and immune systems and promotes chronic inflammation and obesity-related complications.
Risks associated with obesity are as follows:
- osteoarthritis in hips, back, and knees
- gallbladder disease due to excess cholesterol
- sleep apnea, fatigue, and other breathing problems
- heart disease and stroke
- elevated cholesterol
- cancer due to abnormal cell growth
- elevated blood pressure due to damage to arteries leading to other health problems
- Fatty Liver disease
- low quality of life
- mental illness – clinical depression, anxiety and other mental disorders
- body pain and difficult physical functioning
- pregnancy problems like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia
Treatment depends on the cause and severity of the obesity. Communication with your healthcare provider can help with making a weight loss plan. Lifestyle changes are at the top of the list and include :
- eating a heart-healthy diet
- increasing physical activity as tolerated
- an FDA approved weight loss medication
- surgical intervention (gastric bypass or gastric sleeve for example)
Healthcare providers have dieticians on staff that can provide guidelines for a low-calorie healthy diet plan. Weight-loss is dependent on setting individual goals and being compliant with the agreed upon plan. Weight loss can decrease the effects of obesity on hips, back, and joints. Exercise programs will improve breathing issues, decrease high blood pressure, decrease diabetes symptoms and in some cases, the need for certain medications.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are seriously overweight, and 15 percent of children between the ages of six and nineteen are overweight. Public health officials are warning consumers that inactivity and poor diet are catching up to tobacco as a significant health threat.