Obesity Awareness Yellow Ribbon

According to the World Health Organization, obesity has tripled on a global level since 1975. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more. Obese individuals have a higher risk of developing other serious conditions like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Obesity means having too much body fat, it’s more complicated and of more concern than just being overweight.

What is obesity?

To determine if a person is obese or not, their body mass index or BMI is calculated. The CDC defines obesity as having a BMI of 30 or more. Unfortunately, obesity is a common condition. The CDC estimates that over 40% of adults in the US are obese. The BMI is not the only factor considered when determining obesity, even though it continues to be widely used as an indicator. Other factors that can influence the relationship between body fat and BMI include age, sex, muscle mass, and ethnicity.

Three Classifications of Obesity

The body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by your height squared (in inches). A healthy BMI is considered from 18.55 to 24.99. There are three basic classifications for obesity.

  • Overweight – If you have a BMI between 25 and 29.9, you are in the overweight category and it should be concerning to you. Being overweight can lead to other health problems which include obesity. When you remain overweight you can start to develop symptoms of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity – If your BMI is 30 to 39.9, you are in an unhealthy range and considered to be obese. You can start to develop numerous other health problems. Speak with your primary care about treatment options to help you get your weight back down into a healthy range.
  • Severe Obesity – If your BMI is over 40 or you are over 100 pounds above a weight that is healthy for your body size and build, you are considered to be severely obese. This category has the greatest risk for developing other health problems. Talk to your healthcare provider to discover treatment options.

Causes of Obesity

In general, if you eat more calories than you can burn in a day through movement and exercise, and you keep doing that – it can lead to being overweight or obese. However, it’s not just the calorie consumption that is the problem. A sedentary lifestyle is also a huge factor.  While you have control over how many calories you eat or how active you become, there are some obesity causes that cannot be controlled including:

  • Genetics – Your family history and genetic makeup play a huge role in how your body is able to process food and turn it into energy. Genetics also affect how fat is stored in the body.
  • Age – Getting older can lead to slower metabolic rates and less muscle mass. These make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose the extra pounds.
  • Inadequate Sleep – When you do not get enough sleep, it can lead to hormonal changes that make you crave high-calorie foods and make you feel hungrier.
  • Pregnancy – Extra weight gained while you are pregnant can be very difficult to lose and may lead to obesity.
  • Some health conditions can also lead to excessive weight gain and obesity. Some health conditions that may contribute to obesity include:
  • PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) – This condition causes the female reproductive hormones to become imbalanced.
  • Prader-Will Syndrome – This rare condition is present at birth and causes excessive hunger.
  • Cushing Syndrome – This condition is caused by excessive cortisol levels.
  • Hypothyroidism – An underactive thyroid means the thyroid isn’t able to produce enough of some hormones.
  • Osteoarthritis – OA may cause pain which may lead to a less active lifestyle.

How do you get an obesity diagnosis?

The primary measurement that determines obesity is BMI. But a doctor can perform other tests that provide a more accurate measure of body fat and body fat distribution such as:

  • A skinfold thickness test
  • Waist-to-hip comparison
  • Screenings including CT scans, MRIs, or an ultrasound

Doctors may also order other tests if they are diagnosing obesity-related conditions. These tests may include:

  • Blood tests to determine glucose and cholesterol levels
  • Liver function test
  • Diabetes screening tests
  • Thyroid tests
  • Heart tests like an EKG or an ECG (electrocardiogram)

Health Risks Often Associated with Obesity

Obesity is sometimes thought to be a cosmetic issue. It can also be harmful to your health and increases the risk of developing several other conditions. Every year in the US, there are about 112,000 obesity-related deaths. People who have a BMI over 40 have a reduced life expectancy. Obesity also increases the risk of many chronic diseases including:

  • Insulin resistance – Fat cells are more insulin resistant, and the pancreas works harder to maintain healthy insulin levels. For someone who is obese, the body can have a difficult time maintaining healthy insulin and glucose levels leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Adult-Onset Type 2 Diabetes – Your risk of type 2 diabetes goes up with each classification of obesity. The longer a person is obese, the more likely they will develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – Weight gain is linked to increased blood pressure readings and is more likely to affect women than men.
  • Stroke – When an individual cannot maintain a healthy blood pressure, they are at a higher risk of having a stroke.
  • Heart Disease or Heart Attack – The risk of developing coronary artery disease can increase as much as 4 times in those with a BMI over 30. Congestive heart failure is often more prevalent in obese individuals.
  • Certain Cancers – Obesity puts both men and women at risk of developing colon cancer. Obese women are at risk for developing cancer of the uterus and gallbladder. Obese men are more likely to develop cancer of the rectum and prostate.  Postmenopausal women who are obese may be more likely to develop breast cancer. Obesity is a risk factor for many types of cancer including esophageal cancer.

Obesity and Quality of Life

Obesity influences a person’s lifestyle and can diminish the overall quality of life. When you are obese, you might not be able to enjoy many of the activities you used to enjoy. You may try to avoid public areas. Sadly, people with obesity often encounter discrimination. Other weight-related issues that affect the quality of daily life may include:

  • Bouts with depression
  • Disability
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Social isolation
  • Lower work achievement

Treatment Options for Obesity

Many times, people want to jump into a strenuous diet to help them reach an “ideal” weight. For many, some short-term weight loss is possible. Unfortunately, the weight is regained in most cases. For those who do lose a lot of weight quickly, it is usually regained within five years. Learning more about the causes of obesity can help develop effective treatment options. Treatment is more than just a short-term fix for obesity, and it should be treated like other chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Even small weight losses are beneficial. Just losing five to 10% of your weight and maintaining that can provide significant health gains including:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced cholesterol levels
  • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Decrease chance of stroke
  • Less risk of heart disease
  • Decreased mortality

It’s not necessary to reach an “ideal body weight” to reap health benefits from obesity treatment. Your goal does need to be to achieve a “healthier weight.” Try committing to lifelong healthy living like eating more carefully and increasing physical activity.

How do physical activity and exercise affect obesity?

Exercise can play a role in helping reduce obesity and improving one’s overall health. In general, those who engage in recreational activities are less likely to gain extra weight or become obese. Sedentary lifestyles are known to contribute to undesirable weight gain and aid in becoming obese. Exercise and physical activity help to burn cavities. Most activities are beneficial for burning calories, but it does depend on the type, intensity, and duration of the activity. The number of calories burned also depends on the person’s weight. For instance, a person who weighs 200 pounds will burn more calories when walking or running a mile than a 120-pound person. This is because carrying the extra pounds around increases the workload of activity. Regular exercise can be beneficial for helping lose and manage weight, but it also provides many other health benefits including:

  • Increased insulin sensitivity (which reduces insulin resistance)
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Increases HDL cholesterol levels and reduces triglyceride levels
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Reduces abdominal fat
  • Improves heart health
  • Releases “feel good” endorphins

It’s important to note that these health benefits are sometimes independent of losing weight. Before starting any new exercise programs, get input from your health care provider.

Surgical Treatment Options for Obesity

Weight loss surgery is not recommended across the board. However, in some instances, it is suggested. A person is considered morbidly obese if their BMI is greater than 40. They are candidates for weight loss surgery. Also, when a person has a BMI over 35 and they have serious medical problems that could improve with weight loss, then surgical options are considered. Bariatric surgeries include either making the stomach smaller or bypassing the stomach altogether. There are two primary types of bariatric surgeries:

  • Restrictive surgeries slow down the digestive process and restrict the size of the stomach.
  • Malabsorptive surgeries restrict the size of the stomach, but they also remove some of the digestive system to decrease the number of calories or food that can be absorbed.

Can obesity be prevented?

Obesity can be the result of poor lifestyle choices. But it can also be caused by other conditions. Getting treatment for medical conditions that can cause obesity plays an important role in its prevention. There are some lifestyle habits you can adapt to help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.  Exercising and making healthy food choices can help you lose weight after bariatric surgery or help prevent obesity by losing weight if you are overweight. Here are a few helpful tips no matter where you are on your weight-loss journey.

  • Exercise daily (staying within limits your doctor helps you set)
  • Staying hydrated to rid the body of toxins
  • Avoid empty calories and sugary foods
  • Eat plenty of fiber
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Consume low-glycemic foods
  • Use strategies to reduce daily stress
  • Create a food budget
  • Try prepping meals so you have healthy options ready to go

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for preventing obesity. Even small changes can have a big impact on your overall health. Eating more vegetables and working out a couple of times a week can help you feel better and help prevent obesity.

Let Pinnacle GI Partners Help

If you or one of your family members are struggling with obesity, please reach out to a medical professional. You may also consider counseling to deal with emotional issues that are related to obesity. At Pinnacle GI Partners we can help treat obesity-related conditions such as GERD, diverticulitis, esophageal cancer, or colon cancer. Let us provide you with the compassionate care you deserve and help you on your wellness journey.