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Obesity: Risk Factors & Prevention

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What is Obesity?

Obesity is one of the most common medical conditions whereby one’s weight is not proportionate to their height. This can be termed as being overweight as well. This condition can cause various other types of serious health issues, such as cancer, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. Obesity is most common in the United States (x).

To find out if one is obese, the body mass index (BMI) is calculated. This is done by taking one’s height and weight into consideration. One is said to be obese when this BMI value goes above 30. Excessive fat content could pose a serious risk to your health. If your BMI is less than 18.5, the weight status is underweight (x).

Measuring Obesity

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The most common way of measuring obesity is by calculating the BMI of a person. It is the ratio of weight to height. The ranges for determining if a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese are re-determined. By determining BMI and taking measures to prevent it from going above 30, people can prevent chronic health issues and early death. A drawback of this method is that the criteria used in BMI calculation may not be correct for everyone since women tend to have more body fat than men. This method also does not make any differentiation between body fat and lean body mass (x, x).

Waist Circumference

Many consider this one of the best ways of measuring abdominal obesity. The circumference of the abdomen is measured at the natural waist and the belly button or the umbilicus. A few pros include easy measurement, less cost and accuracy. Waist circumference can predict upcoming issues. One issue with this method, though, is that it could be difficult to accurately calculate for those having a BMI of over 35 (x, x).

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Similar to the last method, this one is useful for measuring abdominal obesity as well. To arrive at the answer, you will need to measure the waist and the hip. Once you have the measurements, simply divide the waist by hip measurements. It is one of the most accurate methods out there and is quite useful in predicting health issues in older adults (x, x).

Different Forms of Obesity

Android Fat

Android obesity generally contains fat found in the abdomen, chest and upper arms. This fat occurs most commonly in males than in females. A person having android fat will have all their fat built around the upper body and the abdomen. This leads to an apple-like appearance (x, x).

Gynoid Fat

This is another type of fat that is quite common when it comes to people with obesity. This fat mainly forms in the hips and the thighs. This is exactly the opposite of android fat. Gynoid obesity makes the shape of a body resembles that of a pear. This fat is more common in females than in males. It has also been noted that Gynoid fat is less risky when compared with android fat. There are minimal chances of cardiovascular diseases. However, there is a high chance of the person being affected by breast cancer (x, x).

Risk Factors for Obesity & Weight Gain

Genetics

Some genes inherited from the parents could affect the way your body stores, distributes and processes fat. Genetics can also impact the efficiency with which your body can convert food to energy and how it burns calories while you exercise. Obesity tends to run in families. This is not necessarily because of genetics, but due to similar eating habits and lifestyle (x, x).

Medication

Certain medications could lead to weight gain, especially if the person does not follow a proper diet or gets enough exercise. This includes medications like steroids, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antidepressants, antipsychotic medications and beta-blockers (x, x).

Health Issues

Some medical conditions, such as arthritis, Prader-Willi syndrome, insomnia, peptic ulcer disease, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing syndrome could lead to weight gain as well (x, x).

Lifestyle

A person’s lifestyle could be a major risk factor for obesity. An unhealthy diet, emotional eating, depression, stress and eating disorders could all lead to a significant weight gain. While it is an excellent thing to quit smoking, it does cause weight gain. This is why you need to stay active and eat healthy. Where one works could also make a difference. If you tend to work at a computer all day long and don’t get any form of exercise, it could easily lead to obesity (x).

Risk Factors of Obesity

How Obesity Affects Health

Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death. The most common reason for hypertension is the lifestyle choices we make. An unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking and a lack of exercise could lead to obesity, which in turn could cause high blood pressure. Obesity and hypertension are linked very deeply (x, x).

Type 2 Diabetes

Our body uses insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Obesity can impact the way our body does this. This will increase the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance (x, x).

Heart Disease

Those who are obese have a high chance of getting abnormal cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, which could lead to various heart ailments and stroke (x).

Cerebrovascular Disease

Abdominal obesity could cause lymphedema, aneurysm, edema and other cerebrovascular diseases like cerebral hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Obesity and lymphedema are associated with each other (x, x).

Bone and Joint Damage

Since obesity increases the weight placed on the joints, there is a high risk of inflammation and damage around the joints and the bones. This could lead to gout, osteoarthritis and other issues (x, x).

Cancer

Weight gain could increase the risk of cancer of the ovary, breast, colon, uterus, cervix, kidney esophagus, liver, endometrium, rectum, gallbladder, pancreas and prostate (x, x, x).

Metabolic Syndrome

The risk of developing gallbladder diseases, heartburn or liver issues is high with obesity. Digestive troubles and metabolic syndrome could also occur. The latter is generally associated with a high-calorie diet and lack of exercise (x).

Gynecological Issues

Gynecological issues like preeclampsia, miscarriage and gestational diabetes could all lead to a significant weight gain. Obesity can lead to erectile dysfunction in men. It could cause infertility and irregular periods in women (x, x).

Quality of Life

Obesity can potentially lower one’s quality of life. You might not be able to do a lot of things you want to or participate in activities. Obesity-related issues that could affect the quality of your life include sexual issues, disability, depression, social isolation and more (x, x).

Preventing Obesity

Regular Exercise

Exercising regularly is an important element of preventing obesity. Everyone needs at least 150 minutes of medium-intensity activity every week. You could choose to fast walk, swim, jog or hit the gym (x, x).

Stress and Sleep

Stress is associated with poor sleep. This could lead to the person to experience increased appetite and cravings, leading to obesity (x, x).

Diet

Following a healthy diet will help prevent obesity. Your diet should include fruits, vegetables, and foods that are high in fiber and low in calories (x).

Herbal Supplements for Weight Loss

If you don’t want to rely only on exercise, some herbal supplements could help reduce weight.

  • Caffeine (x) – one capsule after meal, 2-3 times a day
  • Garcinia Cambogia (x) – 500 mg, 2-3 times a day
  • Green coffee bean (x) – 50 mg, twice a day
  • Glucomannan (x) – 2 g, twice a day
  • Green tea (x) – 500 mg, 1-2 times a day

Caffeine

Caffeine is naturally present in coffee, dark chocolate and green tea. This psychoactive substance works as a metabolism booster. Since it boosts metabolism, it can effectively burn fat rapidly, leading to weight loss (x, x).

Raspberry Ketones

As the name suggests, these are generally present in raspberries. It works by breaking down fat and increasing the level of adiponectin, a hormone associated with weight loss (x, x).

Garcinia Cambogia

This small fruit’s skin contains hydroxycitric acid. This ingredient is useful for weight loss as it can inhibit a fat-producing enzyme while increasing serotonin to limit food cravings (x, x).

Green Coffee Bean

Unroasted coffee beans are referred to as green coffee beans. The presence of chlorogenic acid and caffeine aids with weight loss. While chlorogenic acid slows down the breaking of carbohydrates, caffeine increases the burning of fat. Other benefits of this include reduced blood pressure and blood sugar levels (x, x).

Glucomannan

This fiber is naturally present in elephant yam. It works by absorbing water and turning into a kind of gel and giving you a feeling of fullness. This means you will consume less, leading to effective weight loss (x, x).

Green Tea

This is one of the most popular options for weight loss supplements. This increases the activity of norepinephrine and helps burn fast much faster (x, x).

The Bottom Line

Obesity is a common health issue characterized by a significant increase in weight. One can measure obesity by calculating BMI, waist circumference or waist to hip ratio, among other methods. Risk factors for obesity include age, certain medications, underlying health conditions, lifestyle and genetics. Obesity can affect health by leading to several health issues, such as cerebrovascular diseases, heart diseases, bone damage, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Research on obesity tells us that by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and consuming proper supplements, obesity can be efficiently managed.

About the author

Sukriti Taneja


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