Obesity: What Are Its Causes And How Can You Prevent it?

Mar 2016

4 mins read

Obesity is fast turning out to be a health threat globally. Did you know that obesity has nearly doubled worldwide since 1980? About 65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than those underweight. Around 3.4 % adults die each year as a result of being obese or overweight. The statistics are indeed very disturbing.

A person is considered obese, if his/her body weight is 20% higher than it should be. BMI, which refers to body mass index, is the most popular dietary tool used today to measure obesity at a population level. It measures the person’s weight in relation to the person’s height. This gives a resulting number and each number falls in to a bracket and has subsequent health consequences.

Having a raised BMI is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as stroke, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which are some of the leading causes of death. Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. In addition to the increased future risk, they experience breathing difficulty, insulin resistance, increased risk of fractures, CVD, hypersensitivity and psychological disorders.

What are the causes of obesity?

Junk food

Many of us blame our unhealthy eating habits. But our sedentary lifestyle sans any outdoor activity and the food industry are equally to be blamed. However, there are multiple factors that interact and contribute to the condition. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

  • Eating: We tend to eat more calories than our body requires. But are we burning those extra calories?
  • Pregnancy: It gets difficult for women to lose weight after childbirth.
  • Environment: We have a demanding work schedule and an easy access to inexpensive, high calorie, processed food. In addition, the cost of gym membership can be very steep and unaffordable for certain people.
  • Emotional or physiological factors: Stress, depression or low-esteem can also contribute to obesity. When a person is sad or depressed, he/she tends to overeat or binge eat, which is extremely unhealthy.
  • Certain medical conditions: Women can be prone to polycystic ovary syndrome or hormonal disorder, leading to weight gain.
  • Lack of sleep: Research shows that if you don’t get adequate sleep that is required for your body, you are likely at risk of gaining weight.
  • Genes and family history: Families share diet and lifestyle habits. So, if you have a history of obese people in your family, you are more likely to be obese if you don’t take care of your diet and health.
  • Medications: Some medications like antidepressants or hormonal pills can also contribute to your weight gain.
  • Lack of exercise: Physical inactivity is one of the major causes of obesity. Our modern lifestyle leaves us with no time for working out. Our outdoor activities have also reduced enormously; we prefer to take the car or the bus instead of walking to work or school.
  • Unhealthy diet: Most of us complain that we don’t have enough time to cook and end up eating processed or pre-packaged food. We skip breakfast or lunch and survive on junk.

 Implications of obesity:

Heart health

The effects of obesity are varied and can be life threatening if you don’t put an effort to prevent it. Some of the implications include:

  • Sleep apnea and snoring
  • Lung disease
  • Asthma, pulmonary blood clots
  • Liver disease
  • Fatty liver, cirrhosis
  • Gallstones
  • Cancer: Breast, uterus, colon, oesophagus, pancreas, kidney, prostrate
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease: Diabetes, abnormal lipid profile, high blood pressure,
  • Pancreatitis
  • Female disorders: Abnormal periods, infertility
  • Arthritis
  • Inflamed veins often with blood clots
  • Gout

How can you prevent it?

Obesity and related non-communicable diseases are largely preventable. All you need is a supportive environment and a community that can shape your lifestyle choices. To start with, you can make healthier food choices. Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains. You can also limit your energy intake from total sugar and fats, as they can be detrimental for your health.

Engage yourself with regular physical activity. It is essential for children to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Adults should get a minimum of 150 minutes per week.

Individual responsibility can only have its full effect if you have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at a society level it is important to support individuals in following the above recommendations. Make regular physical activity and healthy dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible, especially to the poor.

Even the food industry can play a significant role in controlling or reducing the fat, salt and sugar in processed food. The industry should also practice responsible marketing when it comes to selling their products.

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