What is OBESITY?

The human body is made up of water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals and vitamins. Obesity means that a person has too much body fat in relation to the other body constituents.

A very basic way of determining body fat is by measuring the waistline. Measuring skin fold thickness is a more specialized method.

One of the best ways to measure and track obesity is by checking a persons body mass index. Body mass index is calculated by dividing a persons weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared.

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Why does this happen and how may it affect the patients health?


  • Overeating: Defined as consuming more calories per day than is burned up through physical and mental activity.
  • Aging: Older people burn less energy and require fewer calories to maintain their weight; anyone who eats the same as when they were 20 years younger will gain weight.
  • Genetics: Propensity for certain families to be more prone to carrying excess weight; genes are thought to play a role in how body weight is regulated.
  • Environment and eating habits.
  • Gender: Females burn less energy than males; men need more calories than females to maintain their body weight; women tend to gain weight after menopause when their ability to burn energy diminishes even more.
  • Pregnancy
  • Lack of physical exercise: Too little physical activity and excessive eating is conducive to gaining weight.
  • Eating disorders: Night eating and binge eating are responsible for up to 20% of overweight cases; it is very important to stick to 3 meals a day and perhaps a night time snack, and not to eat between these meals.
  • Illness: Certain diseases cause weight gain, such as hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid gland) and depression.
  • Obesity in children: Research has indicated that the fat cells gained as a child tend to stay with a person as an adult; obese children are more prone to also become obese adults.
  • Medication: Certain medications such as anti-depressants and steroids can cause excessive body weight.

What are the risk factors for obesity?

Obese people (BMI > 30) have an increased risk for developing

  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems (sleep apnoea)
  • Osteoarthritis of joints
  • Lower backache
  • Gallstones
  • Adult onset asthma

These people have increased levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride and their "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels become diminished; this speeds up the causative process of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

What is the treatment?

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Diet
  • Exercise

It is important to set reasonable and achievable goals and to have a long-term plan rather than unrealistic goals that are not sustainable or achievable, as this will only cause demoralisation and continued suffering.

A doctor should supervise weight loss medications in conjunction with an exercise and diet program.

Surgical procedures may be used in special cases where specialists take control of and supervise the rehabilitation process.

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