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CAUSES AND HEALTH RISKS OF BEING OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE

Gaining a few pounds during the year may not seem as much of big deal but these pounds can add up over time and lead to being overweight or obesity. There may be chances of developing health problems due to weight. Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world that is accompanied with several other diseases. The risk/chances may be monitored by knowing your body mass index (BMI) and your waist size in inches. The body mass index is one way to tell if a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. Body mass index measures your weight in relation to your height and provides a score to help place one in a category:

  • Underweight: BMI of less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9
  • Obese : BMI of 30 or higher

The balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure determines a person’s weight. If more calories are consumed than burned, weight gain is inevitable. Likewise if less calories is consumed than burned (metabolized) weight loss is inevitable too.

WHAT MAY BE THE CAUSES OF OBESITY?

There are several causes of obesity, however the most common causes are overeating and physical inactivity. Others include:

  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Medication
  • Physiological Factors
  • Diseases
  • Ethnicity
  • Overeating: Overeating is one of the common causes of obesity. It leads to weight gain, especially if the diet is high in carbohydrates and fat. Foods high in carbohydrates and fat have high energy density. Epidemiologic studies have shown that diets high in carbohydrates and fat contribute to weight gain when not eaten in the right proportion.
  • Physical inactivity: People with sedentary lifestyle burn fewer calories than people who are active or do manual labour. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that physical inactivity was strongly correlated with weight gain in both sexes.
  • Genetics:  There are greater chances of a person developing obesity if one or both parents are obese. Genes may affect hormones involved in the regulation of fat. The deficiency of leptin is a genetic cause of obesity. Leptin is a hormone produced in fat cells and also in the placenta. Leptin controls body weight by sending signals to the brain to eat less when body fat storage level is too high. So if for some reasons, the body cannot produce enough leptin or the body seems to be insensitive to leptin and thus cannot send signals to the brain to eat less, the control is lost, and obesity eventually occurs.
  • Hormones: Women are more prone to weight gain especially during certain periods, periods of pregnancy, menopause and in certain cases periods of using oral contraceptives. Although with the use lower-dose estrogen pills, weight gain has not been too much of a great risk.
  • Medications: The side effect of some medications is weight gain. These medications include: Antidepressants (medications used to treat depression), anticonvulsants (medications used to control seizures such as Carbamazepine and Valporate), some antidiabetic medication (medications used in lowering blood sugar levels such as those belonging to the class of sulfonylurea and thiazolidinedione), hormonal medications such as the oral contraceptives and corticosteroids. The reason for weight gain as a result of medications differs for each medication. This should be discussed with your physician as the benefits of such medications may outweigh the side effects.
  • Psychological factors: For some people, emotions may influence eating habits. As a result of stress, boredom, anger or sadness many people eat voraciously in response to these emotions. This is where stress eating comes to play its role.
  • Diseases: Certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and Cushing’s syndrome may give rise to obesity or being overweight if not properly maintained.
  • Ethnicity: Ethnicity factors may influence the period of onset and the rapidity of weight gain. Some African, African-American and Hispanic women tend to experience weight gain earlier in life than Caucasians and Asians, and the age-adjusted obesity rates are higher in these groups. It has been found that obesity rate in non-Hispanic black men and Hispanic men are higher compared to non-Hispanic white men, but the difference in prevalence is significantly less in women.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISK FACTORS OF BEING OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE?

Obesity may lead to certain health risk factors which include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pregnancy Problems

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