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What is Obesity?
Obesity refers to an excessive amount of body fat. There is, however, a distinction between being obese and being overweight. Someone who is overweight may benefit from losing a few extra pounds, while an obese person has large amounts of extra body fat that puts them at risk for serious health problems.
Obesity health problems are on the increase annually in the United States. While obesity is not considered a diagnosable eating disorder, it has been acknowledged as one of the most dangerous health problems confronting public health professionals today.
Statistically, obesity affects as many as 34 percent of American adults, however, what makes this trend anything but normal are the potentially devastating health, social and emotional implications associated with obesity.
Although body fat is essential for storing energy, insulating the body and protecting important body organs, excessive amounts can lead to serious obesity health problems and increased mortality rates.
Health Consequences of Obesity
An estimated 300,000 deaths per year in the U.S have been attributed to obesity. Even a moderate amount of excess fat (especially around the abdominal area) has been linked to increased mortality rates. People suffering from obesity are more likely than others to suffer from medical complications. Obesity health problems include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Decreased blood oxygen levels
- Decreased testosterone levels
- Certain cancers including:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gall bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Erectile dysfunction
- Loss of libido
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Pregnancy and birth complications
- Liver disease
- Reduced immune system function
- Swollen joints and fluid retention
- Muscular aches and pains
- Mechanical injuries such as sprained ankles, sunken arches, and strain on the knees
Psychological and Social Implications of Obesity
While the medical implications are extensive and serious, the psychological and social consequences of obesity are just as serious. Obesity often leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt and poor self-esteem which in some cases can be even more crippling than the medical concerns. There is a large emotional aspect to obesity and studies have shown that body satisfaction levels are hugely tied in with evaluations of self-worth.
Many obese individuals struggle with disapproval and criticism from both family and strangers and may find the social stigmas of obesity extremely oppressive. They may be discriminated against at job interviews, feel they are disrespected by their physicians and find themselves less inclined to partake in social activities due to feelings of self-consciousness or simply because society has not provided for their needs - public and airline seats are too small, turnstiles too narrow and restaurant booths unaccommodating. These social discriminations often perpetuate a negative self-image and feelings of isolation.
The most common and accepted measurements used to diagnose obesity are the Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements.
While these measures allow you to put your weight concerns into perspective, it is recommended that you make an appointment with a medical health advisor. They will be able to suggest a weight loss program tailored to your needs as well as do any necessary tests to screen for weight-related complications.
In addition to these measurements, your doctor will probably ask a number of questions to help confirm a diagnosis and possible causes of obesity. You will probably be asked about your medical history, the age you started gaining weight, family weight and medical history, eating and exercise habits, nicotine and alcohol use, and previous experience with weight loss attempts.
Your doctor may also do blood tests to check thyroid functioning, along with glucose and cholesterol levels to determine whether any obesity-related conditions are present such as diabetes.
What Causes Obesity?
While there are a number of causes of obesity, it is most commonly the result of consuming more calories each day that can be burned for energy. If the body does not use the amount of calories it consumes, they are stored as fat and the result is weight gain.
When this ratio of consumed versus expended calories gets out of hand, obesity is often the result. This however is a simplified look at the problem, as obesity has multiple causes which usually occur in combination.
Help for Obesity
Ideally our lifestyle should focus on preventing obesity with a healthy diet and execise routine. Preventing obesity and the ailments that can come along with it can significantly improve your quality of life. If you are currently suffering from obesity,you should get treatment as soon as possible. Obesity is a serious health ailment that needs to be addressed and treated promptly. There are a number of treatment options including drug therapy, psychotherapy, surgery, lifestyle changes and natural herbal and homeopathic remedies and it is important that you weigh up each option before making a decision.