Obesity: a growing epidemic

Written by: Top Doctors®
Edited by: Top Doctors®

A person is generally defined as obese when their body mass index (BMI) exceeds 40%. In the UK it is estimated that every 1 in 4 adults and every 1 in 5 children are obese, with the figures still rising. As well as affecting an individual's quality of life, obesity can lead to much more serious and life-threatening health conditions if not treated accordingly. The disease has reached epidemic proportions, and is one of the main preventable causes of death in the world, putting strain on already struggling health systems.


What are the causes of obesity?

In many cases, modern life dictates that we spend less time active than generations before us, whilst still consuming food high in calories and sugar. Unable to burn off excess calories, perhaps because we spend all day sat down in the office or on the sofa, the surplus energy is stored as body fat. This combination of a poor diet and lack of physical activity could prove to be fatal if nothing is done.

Underlying medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing's syndrome, may also be a cause of obesity, by contributing to a person´s weight gain.

Generally speaking, being obese is not genetic. The environment in which an individual grows up can play a huge role and poor eating habits learned in youth can be passed on into adulthood.

Although there are some rare genetic conditions that can cause obesity, in most cases people should be able to lose weight if they put their heart to it.


What are the main health problems associated with obesity?

If left untreated, the effects of obesity can be deadly, due to the potentially life-threatening health problems it can give rise to. These include: type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers such as breast cancer and bowel cancer. Other conditions obesity can cause are: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnoea, and even depression, to name a few.


How to tackle obesity

There is no easy remedy for being excessively overweight, patience and dedication are often the key if a weight loss programme is to work correctly. If you think you may be obese, it is advised you speak with a GP or specialist about how to lose weight safely.

Some lifestyle changes may be necessary, such as partaking in regular physical activity and following a healthy diet low in sugar, salt, and fats and high in fruit and vegetables.

In certain cases, surgery may be required but the patient would still need to exercise and eat healthily after. 


By Topdoctors

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