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Weight concerns come in all shapes and sizes (excuse the terrible pun) from morbid obesity to putting on a couple of extra kgs at Christmas. If you’re normal person you are probably conscious of your weight. Whether you are a little squishy round the edges or fit and toned, you probably look in the mirror every now and again and push at your belly fat a little or suck it in as far as possible, maybe… you even throw up some guns for effect.
We are constantly bombarded from every direction with weight loss, nutrition and fitness information. News shows, talk shows and magazines all have their own take on it and it can be difficult and time consuming to decipher. It’s frustrating and as you’re getting more and more frustrated you are probably also getting more concerned about the way you look. The result is that you don’t feel as good about yourself as you should and you’re not really sure what to do about it and where to look for answers.
If you do think you have a weight issue there are a number of good ways to approach it. First through educating yourself and second by treating it like any other medical problem - work out what’s causing it and look for a solution. Weight issues are often due to an unhealthy relationship with food and this could be due to emotional and self esteem issues such as boredom or depression or a lack of education about food and exercise. However, some are due to other medical conditions or medications. Once you’ve identified the problem you are having it will be much easier to make progress.
Hopefully these pages will help educate you on some of the basics from healthy eating and fitness to some more scientific stuff like what exactly is a calorie and what role carbs, protein and fat play in your body. Knowing these basics will hopefully help you to understand some of the other information out there and to decide whether it’s worth listening to or not all it makes out to be.
What is Obesity?
Now let’s talk about obesity. What is obesity? This is a very simple question to get us started. I’m sure you have all heard some of the facts and figures on obesity and they can paint a pretty worrying picture. Obesity is one of the leading public health concerns and the World Health Organization has labeled it as a worldwide epidemic and not without due cause as obesity is becoming more and more prevalent. But what exactly is it?
Obesity, at its simplest, means having too much body fat.
Scientist and Drs, all like numbers however, and the words “too much body fat” are just too fuzzy for them. So, instead they want to quantify obesity with specifics and graphs and traditionally they have defined obesity as a weight at least 20% above ideal weight (the ideal weight being the weight that corresponds to the lowest death rate for individuals of a specific height, gender, and age). 20 – 40% over ideal weight is considered mildly obese; 40-100% over ideal weight is considered moderately obese; and 100% over ideal weight is considered severely, or morbidly, obese.
In the last decade they have moved onto that thing called a BMI (body mass index) to help qualify whether or not a person is obese or overweight or just right or too skinny. This relates a person’s weight to height (more specifically your BMI is your weight in kg divided by your height in M and then squared - (kg/m)²)and therefore gives a relatively good guide to an adults body fat content. The American National Institutes of Health define someone with a BMI of 30 and above as obese and someone with a BMI falling between 25 – 29.9 as overweight.
Those are the basic facts that help us represent the medical problem of obesity. However, don’t freak out just yet. I would like to bring you quickly back to our first definition. Obesity, at its simplest, means having too much body fat. Fat is the key word here and there are a number of other reasons you can be overweight without having excess body fat such as excess bone, muscle or water. Sports players for example are likely to be termed overweight by BMI as their weight to height is disproportional but this is likely due to excess muscle it doesn’t make them obese.
If your BMI does put you in an unhealthy weight category it is worth investigating further and there are techniques which can give you more accurate information on the amount of fat you carry. It is important to be honest with yourself though, and if you do fall in the overweight or obese zone don’t immediately scramble to the excuse you have big bones. Instead recognize that you have identified a problem and seek to find a solution like you would for any other medical issue. If you thought you had asthma you wouldn’t just pass it off as nothing you’d probably go out do some research, talk to a doctor and get an inhaler.
Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors, including
- The two most common causes of obesity are inactivity and an unhealthy diet and eating habits
- If you’re not very active you won’t burn very many calories and with an inactive lifestyle you will more likely take in more calories a day than you lose, leading to weight gain
- Having a diet that's high in calories, eating fast food, skipping breakfast, eating most of your calories at night, drinking high-calorie beverages and eating oversized portions all contribute to weight gain.
- Lack of sleep. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. You may also crave foods high in calories and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain
- Certain Medications. there are a number of medications that can cause weight gain as a side effect. You mayneed to alter diet and exercise regime accordingly to accommodate for the potential side effects of the medication
Health Risks of Obesity
Being overweight places extra stress on your body. The more extra weight you carry the more strain you put on yourself and the harder your body has to work to continue functioning normally. This means that there are a number of potentially very serious complications that are related to obesity.
Type II Diabetes
- 80-90% of people who are diagnosed with type II diabetes are also diagnosed as obese
- Overeating forces your pancreas to work overtime cranking out insulin to clear glucose
- In the long run stress of over eating and extra weight on your body impacts the ability for it to maintain proper glucose levels and it can even become insulin resistant
- Click the link in order to understand Type II Diabetes better
High Cholesterol and triglycerides
- Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. In particular LDL, LDL (bad) cholesterol is the main source of cholesterol buildup and blockage in the arteries.
- Triglycerides are another form of fat in your blood
- There are a number of things that can influence cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Three in particular are often found alongside obesity:
- Diet – high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat will raise cholesterol levels
- Weight – being overweight can increase your cholesterol level while losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels
- Physical Activity - Regular physical activity will not only help you lose weight but can also directly help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
- For further more detailed information about good and bad cholesterol follow the link
High Blood Pressure
- High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease
- The more you weigh the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
- Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart with serious consequences such as a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke
- Fatty material and other substances form a plaque build-up on the walls of your coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to your heart
- This buildup causes the arteries to get narrow
- As a result, blood flow to the heart can slow down or stop
- Diabetes and high blood pressure (other side effects of obesity) can both lead to heart disease
- For more on symptoms and treatment of heart disease follow the link
- A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or reduced.This can deprive your brain of oxygen and nutrients, which can cause your brain cells to die.
- A stroke is a medical emergency and is an incredibly serious potentially life threatening medical condition
- A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke – 85% of strokes) or a leaking or burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke)
- One form of a ischemic stroke is a thrombotic stroke which occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one of the arteries that supply blood to your brain
- A clot often may be caused by fatty deposits (plaque) that build up in arteries and cause reduced blood flow (atherosclerosis) or other artery conditions
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea and being overweight all increase the chances of stroke
- For more information on stroke symptoms and causes follow the link
Fatty Liver Disease
This is when you get a buildup of extra fat in the liver cells usually caused by diet or alcohol. It’s normal for the liver to have a little fat in it but when 5 – 10% of the livers weight is fat you have a condition called fatty liver disease. This happens when you get a buildup of triglycerides (a type of fat cell) in your liver due to increased fat in your diet which causes the liver to swell
- Foods high in fat and sugar contain a high amount of triglycerides
- It’s your livers job to process these triglycerides and store them and then it releases them when the body needs them
- When the release is slowed down or the flow of the triglycerides is increased then they build up in the liver
- This can cause the liver to swell which can lead to scarring and cirrhosis which is when the healthy tissue of the liver is replaced by hard scar tissue
- Eventually this can lead to liver failure and liver cancer and can be fatal
- You are at risk of fatty liver disease if you are obese, have diabetes, have high cholesterol or have poor eating habits
- There are very few early warning signs of fatty liver, though obesity can be one of them
- A blood test may show unusual liver enzymes and your doctor can confirm with an ultra sound, a CT scan or MRI. If they are particularly concerned they may take a little piece of you r liver to test it
- There is no medical treatment yet but healthy diet and exercise and a reduction in weight have been shown to help prevent further damage and reverse early stages of fatty liver disease, this is best done alongside controlling diabetes, avoiding alcoholic and lowering cholesterol if you have a problem with any of those
- Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts and can lead to
- Loud snoring, observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep, abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, or awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat,
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia) and excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Three of the risk factors for sleep apnoea are associated with obesity or being overweight
- Excess weight. Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people develop the disorder, too.
- Neck circumference. A neck circumference greater than 17 inches (43 centimeters) is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. That's because a thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Sleep apnoea is more common in people with hypertension.
- For more information about the symptoms, causes and treatment of sleep apnea follow the link
- There is no doubt a connection between obesity and depression however, nobody is quite sure about that connection. Does depression cause obesity, or does obesity prompt depression?
- There are studies which have shown that obese people are about 25 percent more likely to experience a mood disorder like depression compared with those who are not obese.
- Obesity can cause poor self-image, low self-esteem, and social isolation, all known contributors to depression
- Obesity can also result in chronic joint pain as well as serious diseases like diabetes and hypertension, all of which have been linked to depression.
- Treating obesity and reducing weight has been shown as effective way to combat depression and the greater the weight loss the greater the reduction in depressive symptoms
- For more information about the symptoms, causes and treatment of depression follow the link
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