When my colleagues asked me to write a series of articles on Obesity for the public I thought it would be a great idea as the festive season is around the corner and everyone is geared to gain their summer bodies. In this and the next few articles we will look at broadly about Obesity and its management.
We generally tend to think that a person’s body weight is a balance between the diet and exercise and the tipping of the balance will make you either thin or over weight. Well, this is entirely not true because there are many other contributory factors to your weight. Obesity has become one of the bigger challenges in the Australian health care system in recent times and it has become a formidable contributing factor for defining health of an individual.
In a recent survey The Australian Burden of Disease Study found the single leading risks factors contributing to disease burden were:
- Tobacco use (accounting for 9.0% of the total burden)
- High body mass index (BMI) (related to overweight and obesity) (7%)
- Alcohol use (5.1%)
- Physical inactivity (5.0%)
- High blood pressure (4.9%)
According to this survey it is estimated that almost two-thirds (63%) of Australians aged 18 and over were overweight or obese. Put it in another way, approximately 11.2 million adults were overweight or obese (ABS 2015). About 1 in 3 (36%) adults were overweight but not obese, while about 1 in 4 (28%) were obese. According to this study more men than women were overweight but not obese (42% compared with 29%), but similar proportions of both men and women were obese (28% of men and 27% of women).
In 2014–15, about 1 in 4 (26%) Australian children and adolescents aged 2–17 were overweight or obese. That’s around 1.2 million children and adolescents (ABS 2015). About 1 in 6 (18%) children and adolescents aged 2–17 were overweight but not obese, while about 1 in 13 (8%) were obese.
This is a concerning trend as obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure heart disease and strokes , type 2 diabetes, some muscle and bone conditions and some cancers like breast and bowel cancer. As the level of excess weight increases, so does the risk of developing these conditions. In addition, being overweight can hamper the ability to control or manage chronic conditions. It also has a negative effect on self image and psychological wellbeing.
Obesity in children can lead to a chronic problem as overweight and obese children can retain the tendency to adulthood.
What is obesity to a lay person ?
There are many ways in which a person’s health in relation to their weight can be classified, but the most widely used method is body mass index (BMI).
BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height. You can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your score. These calculators are freely available on the internet.
For most adults, a BMI of:
- 18 to 25 means you’re of a healthy weight
- 25 to 30 means you’re overweight
- 30 to 40 means you’re obese
- 40 or above means you’re severely obese or morbidly obese.
BMI isn’t used to definitively diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular sometimes have a high BMI without excess fat. But for most people, BMI is a useful indication of whether they’re a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
BMI is also influenced by your ethnic background. The scores mentioned above generally apply to people with a white Caucasian background. For other races such as Asian and Indian populations the threshold for being considered overweight or obese may be lower. BMI shouldn’t be used to work out whether a child is a healthy weight, because their bodies are still developing.
The main causes of Obesity are broadly categorised as poor dietary habits , lack of physical exercise , poor life style choices, genetic conditions and predisposing medical conditions.
Obesity can cause a number of further problems, including difficulties with daily activities and serious health conditions. Research has shown many medical benefits of regaining a healthy weight. These includes control of Diabetes, recovering from sleep apnoea(snoring) and other breathing problems, improvement of heart conditions and blood pressure, better joint health and most importantly improvement of self image and confidence.
In my next article I would like to talk to you in detail about the causes and effects of obesity.