The number of adults and children who are affected by obesity is increasing every year. Unfortunately, being very overweight can lead to a range of serious health problems.
Obesity means you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) that’s above 30. You can use a BMI calculator to work out your score, or another simple way to check for obesity is to measure your waist. Men with waist circumference above 40 inches and women with waist circumference over 35 inches are likely to be obese and face increased health risks.
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Obesity can lead to physical symptoms such as feeling tired and breathless, pain in the back and joints, which all make it hard to be active. You might also snore more at night, or suffer from sleep apnea – so a good night’s sleep is less likely.
Being severely overweight can also cause you to sweat more and lead to skin rashes and infections. It also increases the risk of developing asthma, gout and gallstones.
Not surprisingly, obesity can drain away your confidence and self-esteem. Many people with the condition become depressed and isolated.
Women with obesity who are pregnant face the increased risk of complications during their pregnancy, or when giving birth. They may have high blood sugar levels or high blood pressure during pregnancy, which both cause problems for mother and the unborn baby.
The risk of pre-eclampsia is higher. There’s also a higher risk of premature birth, birth defects and a C-section delivery. So, if you have obesity when you are pregnant, getting advice on managing your weight is very important.
Serious diseases linked to obesity
There’s growing evidence to show that people with obesity are at an increased risk of developing more serious and life-limiting diseases.
- Type 2 diabetes – a chronic illness caused by high sugar levels in the blood
- Stroke – a critical condition that causes a loss of blood supply to the brain
- Heart disease – obesity can narrow arteries and decrease the heart’s effectiveness at pumping properly
- High blood pressure – obesity strains the heart so it has to pump harder
- Fatty liver disease – fat builds up in the liver causing liver damage
- Cancer – obesity increases the risk of breast, bowel and gynecologic cancers in particular
All these potential health problems mean that if you are obese, you should take advice from your doctor to begin to treat the condition.
Treatment, unless you have an underlying medical condition, will involve eating a healthy, lower-calorie diet, exercising regularly, plus making sure you are sleeping well and dealing with any sources of stress in your life.
The evidence shows that even small amounts of weight loss (even as little as 5 pounds!) and small amounts of exercise can quickly reduce your risk of developing serious illnesses. Type 2 diabetes, for instance, can be delayed, or even prevented, by losing just 5% of your body weight and doing regular brisk walking.
Medication or even weight-loss surgery may be options recommended by your doctor. Also, there are medicines available for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
There’s no quick fix for obesity. It will take time, commitment, encouragement, psychological support and a solid plan of action to overcome this condition. But taking action now means your future can be a much healthier one.