Obesity - What you need to know

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Obesity affects around 1 in every 4 adults in the UK, according to the NHS, and recent statistics on childhood obesity state that obesity amongst children in their last year of primary school has reached an all-time high.

The National Child Measurement programme found that 26,000 children aged 10-11 are now classed as severely obese and run the risk of long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart conditions.

We take a look at the causes, the long term effects on your body and what can be done to combat it.

How is obesity defined?

Obesity is generally defined using a body mass index score, known as a BMI. This uses your height to determine your ideal weight and scores you on where you fall on the scale - anything above 25 is considered overweight and 30 to 39.9 means obese.

However, the BMI scale has come under fire for being an inaccurate measurement of appropriate weight, with some saying it does not take into account muscle gain or body shape, and it's not advised to use this as a sole measurement of health.

Waist size can therefore also be taken into account to measure obesity. With the NHS advising that “men with a waist size of 94cm or more and women with a waist size of 80cm or more are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.”

What causes obesity?

Obesity develops gradually and isn’t only caused by one thing. A number of different factors cause weight gain which can include:

  • Consuming more calories than you're using - this is particularly prevalent in societies where a wide range of food is readily available and people tend to eat more sugars.
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle - more common in developed and developing countries, where most jobs are carried out sitting down and public transport is used instead of walking.
  • Genetic conditions - such as a slow metabolism.
  • Other medical conditions - such as polycystic ovary syndrome in women.

We’re heavily influenced by what’s around us such as fast-food places, convenience, offers on sweet treats and advertising. Cancer Research UK highlighted: “Over time food has become cheaper, larger, tastier and more calorific and advertising and marketing more sophisticated. For example, adverts, price promotions on unhealthy foods and where products are placed in a store all have an impact.”

>>Read more on the small changes you can make to lead a healthier lifestyle

Why is being obese dangerous for your health?

Obesity is linked to a number of short-term and long-term problems which affect both physical and mental health.

Short-term problems

Short-term problems caused by obesity include:

  • joint pain
  • low confidence and self-esteem
  • snoring
  • being short of breath
  • feeling lethargic.

It may also lead to depression if you’re unable to take part in social activities due to either physical or mental health reasons, as it can cause isolation.

Long-term problems

Being obese for a long period of time can cause a number of more serious health issues.

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol puts the arteries are under more strain, and both can lead to heart disease and strokes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is also linked to obesity, with Diabetes.co.uk stating “obese people are up to 80 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with a BMI of less than 22”.

What can be done to help combat obesity?

There’s no quick fix for obesity and weight loss programmes; exercise plans and changing your mind-set take time.

But there’s plenty of help out there if you’re concerned about your weight. Regularly monitoring your weight and setting realistic goals can both help; those small targets once reached can give a real boost to your confidence and help keep you on the right track.

The NHS say “even losing what seems like a small amount of weight, such as 3% or more of your original body weight, and maintaining this for life, can significantly reduce your risk of developing obesity-related complications like diabetes and heart disease.”

Consult your doctor if you’re concerned about your weight or use the NHS’ 12-week diet and exercise plan to help kick-start your weight loss.

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