Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is a calculation that takes a person’s weight and height into account. However, BMI does have some limitations.
Factors such as affecting in with obesity are age, sex, ethnicity, and muscle mass can influence the relationship between BMI and body fat. Also, BMI doesn’t distinguish between excess fat, muscle, or bone mass, nor does it provide any indication of the distribution of fat among individuals.
Despite these limitations, BMI continues to be widely used as an indicator of excess weight.
What causes obesity?
Eating more calories than you burn in daily activity and exercise (on a long-term basis) causes obesity. Over time, these extra calories add up and cause you to gain weight.
- Eating a poor diet of foods high in fats and calories
- Having a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle
- Not sleeping enough, which can lead to hormonal changes that make you feel hungrier and crave certain high-calorie foods
- Genetics, which can affect how your body processes food into energy and how fat is stored
- Growing older, which can lead to less muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate, making it easier to gain weight
- Pregnancy (weight gained during pregnancy can be difficult to lose and may eventually lead to obesity)
Who is at risk for obesity?
A complex mix of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors can increase a person’s risk for obesity.
Some people possess genetic factors that make it difficult for them to lose weight.
Environment and community
Your environment at home, at school, and in your community, can all influence how and what you eat and how active you are. Maybe you haven’t learned to cook healthy meals or don’t think you can afford healthier foods. If your neighborhood is unsafe, maybe you haven’t found a good place to play, walk, or run.
Psychological and other factors
- Depression can sometimes lead to weight gain, as people turn to food for emotional comfort. Certain antidepressants can also increase risk of weight gain.
- It’s a good thing to quit smoking, but quitting can also lead to weight gain. For that reason, it’s important to focus on diet and exercise while you’re quitting.
- Medications such as steroids or birth control pills can also put you at greater risk for weight gain.
How is obesity diagnosed?
Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more. Body mass index is a rough calculation of a person’s weight in relation to their height.
Other more accurate measures of body fat and body fat distribution include skinfold thickness, waist-to-hip comparisons, and screening tests such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Your doctor may also order certain tests to help diagnose obesity as well as obesity-related health risks. These may include blood tests to examine cholesterol and glucose levels, liver function tests, diabetes screen, thyroid tests, and heart tests, such as an electrocardiogram.
A measurement of the fat around your waist is also a good predictor of risk for obesity-related diseases.
What are complications of obesity?
Obesity leads to much more than simple weight gain. Having a high ratio of body fat to muscle puts strain on your bones as well as your internal organs. It also increases inflammation in the body, which is thought to be a cause of cancer. Obesity is also a major cause of type 2 diabetes.
Obesity has been linked to a number of health complications, some of which are life-threatening:
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- certain cancers (breast, colon, and endometrial)
- gallbladder disease
- fatty liver disease
- high cholesterol
- sleep apnea and other breathing problems
How is obesity treated?
If you’re obese and haven’t been able to lose weight on your own, medical help is available. Start with your family physician who may be able to refer you to a weight specialist in your area.
Your doctor may also want to work with you as part of a team helping you lose weight. That team might include a dietitian, therapist, and/or other healthcare staff.
Your doctor will work with you on making lifestyle changes. Sometimes, they may recommend medications or weight loss surgery as well.
Counseling or support groups may also identify unhealthy triggers and help you cope with any anxiety, depression, or emotional eating issues.
- Medical weight loss
Your doctor may also prescribe certain prescription weight loss medications in addition to healthy eating and exercise plans. Medications are usually prescribed only if other methods of weight loss haven’t worked and if you have a BMI of 27 or more in addition to obesity-related health issues.
Prescription weight loss medications either prevent the absorption of fat or suppress appetite. These drugs can have unpleasant side effects. Like, the drug orlistat can lead to oily and frequent bowel movements, bowel urgency, and gas. Your doctor will monitor you closely while you’re taking these medications.
- Weight loss surgery
Weight loss surgery is commonly called bariatric surgery requires a commitment from patients that they will change their lifestyle.
These types of surgery work by limiting how much food you can comfortably eat or by preventing your body from absorbing food and calories. Sometimes they do both.
Weight loss surgery isn’t a quick fix. It’s a major surgery and can have serious risks. After surgery, patients will need to change how they eat and how much they eat or risk getting sick.
Candidates for weight loss surgery will have a BMI of 40 or more, or have a BMI of 35 to 39.9 along with serious obesity-related health problems.
Patients will often have to lose weight prior to undergoing surgery. Additionally, they will normally undergo counseling to ensure that they’re both emotionally prepared for this surgery and willing to make the necessary lifestyle changes that it will require.
Surgical options May help you prevent Obesity includes:
gastric bypass surgery, which creates a small pouch at the top of your stomach that connects directly to your small intestine. Food and liquids go through the pouch and into the intestine, bypassing most of the stomach.
laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB), which separates your stomach into two pouches using a band
gastric sleeve, which removes part of your stomach
biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch, which removes most of your stomach
Obesity Preventing option for All:
Help prevent weight gain by making good lifestyle choices. Aim for moderate exercise like walking, swimming, biking for 20 to 30 minutes every day.
Eat well by choosing nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Eat high-fat, high-calorie foods in moderation.