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Far from simply being a term for carrying extra weight, obesity is a medical condition in which the accumulation of excess body fat has a damaging effect on a person’s health.

A group of large people exercising

It increases their risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and other dangerous conditions. These obesity complications can reduce life expectancy.

Obesity causes are, for the most part, lifestyle-related with a poor diet and lack of physical activity playing a major contributing role. Other possible causes include certain underlying medical conditions, such as an underactive thyroid, and the use of some medications like corticosteroids.

What are its symptoms?

The most commonly regarded obesity signs are:

  • A BMI (Body Mass Index) higher than 30. (You can work this out by using an online BMI calculator)
  • A waist measurement greater than 88cm in women or 101cm in men
  • Being 20 percent or more heavier than considered healthy for your height.

Obesity symptoms can be harmful too. You may suffer from any of these health effects associated with obesity: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), sore joints from carrying excess weight, high cholesterol, sleep apnoea or other breathing difficulties, metabolic syndrome or erectile dysfunction, just to name a few.

How is it diagnosed?

If your BMI or waist circumference classify you as obese, your healthcare practitioner may perform a physical examination or order further tests to assess whether and how the excess weight may be impacting on your well-being. This can include cholesterol and blood sugar tests, liver function and thyroid function tests, and questions about your diet and exercise habits.

What are your treatment options?

The key to obesity treatment is shedding those excess kilograms in order to reach a healthy and sustainable weight. In order to do so, the energy expended must be greater than the kilojoule input, which translates to more physical activity and a carefully-controlled diet.

A multidisciplinary approach is important for educating the patient about his or her bad habits (for example, eating out too often, too many hours on the couch, emotional eating, etc.) and helping to introduce better ones.

Prescription weight-loss medication or bariatric surgery to reduce stomach size and thus limit food intake are more drastic options to treat obesity, but still require patient commitment to adhere to a healthy diet plan.

Can it be prevented?

While excess weight can be a killer, obesity is also considered one of the leading preventable causes of death. Obesity prevention tactics are the same as the recommended treatments for obesity: a healthy, balanced diet comprised largely of foods low in energy (kilojoules) but high in nutrients. And, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) exercise guidelines, you need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.

Be aware of your weight and, if needs be, consult a dietician to assist you with an eating plan and a biokineticist to draw up an exercise programme to keep it within the healthy range.

What to do now
Struggling to get your weight under control? Clicks Clinics offers a range of health screenings to help you out:

  • The Clicks Full Basic Screening measures your blood pressure and BMI and supplies you with a Lifestyle Report
  • The Clicks Comprehensive Screening measures your blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and BMI and furnishes you with a Lifestyle Report, as well as a Meal Plan and an Exercise Plan.

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online. 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in January 2015