Learn about the cause, symptoms, and treatment of obesity
Obesity is defined as having an excess proportion of body fat. Physicians determine this diagnosis based on the calculations of a patient’s body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters, squared. A BMI of 30 is considered obese. Morbid obesity is diagnosed when a person has a BMI of 40, or 100 pounds more than what is considered normal for his/her height. A report from the Center for Disease Control shows more than one-third (37%) of U.S. adults are obese. The same study shows an alarming increase in childhood obesity, which has tripled in children and adolescents in the last 30 years. Left untreated, obesity can result in diabetes, heart disease, joint strain and even death.
What is considered obese, and complications associated with obesity?
The primary symptom of obesity is an increase in total body fat of more than 20% over what is considered normal for a person’s height and weight, or 30 on the body mass index (BMI).
Symptoms related to obesity include:
- Becoming winded, even with mild activity
- Problems with mobility
- Knee pain
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Simplified, obesity is caused by a person taking in more calories than he/she burns, resulting in unused calories and fat. The specific causes for obesity, however, vary from person to person and include a number of factors ranging from genetics, lifestyle choices, medical problems, depression, even age. For many, a combination of risk factors and causes has led to obesity.
Genetics: Often people are predisposed to obesity via their gene pool. If a parent is overweight or obese, especially from an early age, their children face a greater risk.
Lifestyle: Not getting enough exercise combined with eating a diet high in fat can attribute to obesity.
Psychological: Depression, a feeling of self-loathing, boredom, anxiety and other psychological issues can all lead to over eating and binge eating.
Medical Problems: Medical conditions including underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), polycystic ovary syndrome and Cushing’s Syndrome can contribute to obesity, particularly if other risk factors are present.
Age: As people age, particularly after 40, their metabolism slows down requiring them to work harder to lose weight. Many women going through menopause often report weight gain.
Medication: Some prescription medications including steroids have been known to cause excessive weight gain.
For many, reducing weight is accomplished with calorie restriction, moderate to heavy exercise and sheer willpower. For most, however, the significant amount of weight associated with obesity is difficult to lose without medical and sometimes surgical intervention.
Hospital/Clinic supervised weight loss program: Physicians who consider their patients to be motivated candidates may encourage them to enroll in a hospital or clinic supervised program. These programs, some covered under insurance, use nutritionists, trainers, and behavioral specialists to tailor a weight loss program for the individual based on his/her weight loss needs.
Medication: Often medication is prescribed to aid in weight loss: however, since many weight loss drugs and appetite suppressants have been pulled from the market in the past due to serious safety concerns, it is recommended that only doctor-supervised weight loss drugs are used.
- Orlistat (also Alli, Xenical) – Orlistat is a lipase inhibitor that works by blocking some of the fat in food from being absorbed in to the intestines, redirecting it to the stool.
Other drugs that may be prescribed:
- Lorcaserin (Belviq)
- Sibutramine (Meridia)
- Phentermine (Adipex-P)
- Diethylpropion (Tenuate)
Surgery: People who have been obese for some time, despite diet and exercise but are still in relative good health may be good candidates for surgical intervention. The two most common types of weight loss surgeries are gastric bypass and laparoscopic gastric banding (Lap band).
Unlike many medical disorders, obesity can be prevented. Even people with high risk factors for becoming obese can simultaneously prevent further weight gain and lose pounds by becoming aware of their daily lifestyle habits and make a commitment to make healthy changes.
- Diet: Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Omit high fat/high sugar items.
- Exercise: Regular exercise of a moderate intensity at least 30 minutes a day. Those who are just beginning an exercise routine should start slow and build intensity. Walking is considered a great way to begin.
- Join a support group
- Talk to a doctor or psychologist about food triggers and behaviors that may be resulting from post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety and depression.
Obesity Society – http://www.obesity.org/