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Problems Of Obesity

Updated on June 29, 2013
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Obesity

A person is said to be obese if she or he is significantly overweight for her or his age and height. It is believed that dietary habits and sedentary life style are the main causes behind the increasing incidence of obesity. Genetic factors also lead to obesity.

Normally whatever we eat is metabolised if we lead a healthy active lifestyle. However, people with a sedentary lifestyle burn less energy than they usually consume in the form of their daily calorie intake. The imbalance between calories consumed and calories burnt causes weight gain. How this imbalance is caused not clear. Obesity frequently has more than one cause. Besides the quality and quantity of food intake, genetic, environmental, psychological and other factors are believed to cause obesity.

Genetic Causes

Obesity and some of the diseases it is associated with tend to run in families. This could be genetic in nature. However, it is difficult to segregate genetic factors from dietary and lifestyle ones. Family members share genes as well diet and lifestyle habits. Lifestyle factors cannot be separated from genetic reasons. As per medical evidence, heredity, however, appears to be a strong causative factor. Still, it is possible for to keep weight under control and ward off obesity through proper food intake and workouts.

Environmental Reasons

A person's environment also plays an important role in making people obese. Environment governs lifestyle and determines what people eat and how active or inactive they are. Americans, for example, tend to consume high-fat diets and junk food. Americans also don't work out enough.

Psychological Causes

These days, individuals are often quite stressed out and suffer from negative emotions. Their psychological condition also affects their eating habits. Binge eating is a major reason for obesity. Many people are unable to control the quantity of food they consume. This eating disorder can be treated with medication.

Other Causes

Some illnesses such as hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, depression, and certain neurologic problems can also lead to overeating. Some drugs such as steroids and anti-depressants also cause weight gain. A doctor can check if the patient has any of these conditions and provide medication.

Obesity in itself is not a disease, but it is a health condition that is responsible for numerous debilitating diseases. It can cause diabetes, blood pressure, strokes, heart problems, osteoarthritis and many other ailments. It is suspected that a person afflicted by obesity is more susceptible to diseases like cancer, gout, sleep apnea, gallbladder / kidney stones, Alzheimer’s and so on. Once the person gets affected by any of these diseases, he needs to be treated for that disease as well.

Obese people are likely to fall sick and develop medical conditions. It is estimated that anyone who is even 20% overweight is at risk of developing medical conditions. If someone is 40% overweight, the risk of death also increases manifold. Heart disease and strokes are the number one killers of obese people.

Health is an individual issue. However, obesity has become a real challenge for the government in some countries. The problem of obesity is endemic in countries like the USA. As obese people are susceptible to many diseases, entire societies can become physically debilitated. The cost of healthcare in such countries shoots up. Huge productivity loss can also take place as obese people tend to often fall sick.

Family history or genetic reasons could be the cause for many diseases, but their onset is often triggered by obesity. Hence it is important to reduce weight. Regular workouts, brisk walking and diet management can help reduce weight. Doctors opine that all persons who are overweight by 20% or more should reduce weight to cut down on health risk.

Obesity is a big health hazard. People who have been 40 percent overweight for a decade or two are twice as likely to die a premature death.

Obesity also causes severe emotional suffering. Many societies highly value physical appearance. Slim people are often considered more attractive. Social expectations make overweight persons feel unattractive. Obese boys and girls are often discriminated at school or work. They often feel rejected and depressed.

Doctors say that if a person is able to reduce his weight even by as little as 4 to 10 Kgs, he can derive substantial health benefits. This reduces Cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes. Apart from regular exercise, consumption of low fat, nutritious food also helps.

Severely obese people may even need surgical treatment to reduce weight. Weight loss surgery is the only answer if the person becomes too obese. Liposuction is considered a safe medical procedure for treating fat people. At times, this however does not work. Doctors stitch the patient’s stomach to reduce their capacity to eat larger amounts. Medical science has made advancements in treating obesity, but it cannot solve the problem by itself. More and more people are becoming obese early in their life. Children’s food habits are shaped by advertisements promoting fast and convenience foods. They like to eat junk food. They don’t lead an active life. Most of the entertainment and play is indoors. Electronic games are a craze. All this causes obesity.

The problem of obesity is becoming greater in many countries, especially in urban areas. If not solved early, entire societies can become disease prone. Cost of medical care will become unaffordable. There is already a problem in the USA. Successive American Presidents have been trying to reform the medical system that encourages high cost treatments. However, as this is a social problem, we need to address it in a different way. Governments should engage in massive public awareness programmes to tell people about the consequences of obesity and possible treatments. Schools and colleges should encourage active sports. Junk food needs to be discouraged. Obesity is a social health issue and cannot be solved unless the entire society is activated. Governments could also consider some financial and other incentives for citizens, who take care of their health and remain fit. Insurance premium could be lowered for people who are not obese to encourage healthy behaviour.

In short, obesity is a serious root cause for many medical illnesses. These illnesses are very expensive to treat and therefore a drain on society’s resources. As such, we need to address the root cause, i.e., obesity itself. Medical sciences alone cannot solve this problem. The answer lies in healthy eating and active lifestyle. Governments therefore need to launch a public campaign to encourage healthy and active living. The cost of these initiatives may be less than what is being spent on treating illnesses caused by obesity.

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