An epidemic is something that spreads rapidly and affects an inordinately large number of people at the same time. There will be a rapid rise in the number of new cases well above the defined baseline. By this simplistic definition, obesity fits the bill rather perfectly. Obesity is a lifestyle disease. That is, it occurs due to a combination of factors, most notably due to a faulty lifestyle. Hence it is also regarded to be a lifestyle influenced medical condition. It enhances the likelihood of developing various other medical conditions that can pose challenges to one's life.
What Is Body Mass Index (BMI)?
When the (Body Mass Index) BMI is equal to or more than 30 kilograms per meter square of the person's height, a person is said to be obese. There are three grades of obesity and a person with a BMI equal to or more than that of 40 kg/meter square is said to be 'morbidly obese', or said to have grade 3 obesity. Obesity is not the same as being overweight. A BMI of 25 kg/meter square or exceeding that is classified as being overweight.
What Are the Different Causes of Obesity?
- Like many of the new-age lifestyle diseases, obesity too runs in families. It has a genetic preponderance. Polymorphisms involving the leptin gene or leptin receptor deficiency are some of the commonly identified genetic risk factors for this dreaded disease.
- Along with genes, a number of other factors also contribute to the ever-expanding modern-day waistlines. These include a sedentary lifestyle, faulty dietary habits, lack of physical exercise, and the enormous stress that is prevalent these days.
- Modern-day gadgets like smartphones, i-pad, tablets, and computers have assumed a pivotal role in the causation of obesity. Individuals who are hooked onto these devices, become couch potatoes and lack physical exercise. They strain their eyes, but not their bellies and they keep staring into their computer screens, either tweeting or face-booking. This becomes a habit and the mere mention of exercise startles such individuals.
- Junk foods are a major culprit that can potentially lead to obesity. Majority of the junk foods contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), an ingredient that enhances the taste of a food item but is toxic to the body. High calorific value with zero nutritional content in these junk foods is the harbinger of many a malady. With the emergence of diverse varieties of junk foods, people started relying on this food rather than healthy homemade food items. Daily consumption of junk foods, which are loaded with harmful chemicals and unhealthy fats forms the basic foundation for obesity development.
- In the good old days, people used to bend their backs and till their lands. This provided adequate physical exercise and they lived well past their prime without falling sick or harboring illnesses like diabetes mellitus or hypertension. But the sedentary lifestyle of people has increased the number of obese individuals these days.
What Are the Medical Complications That Arises Due to Obesity?
Obesity comes with its fair share of other medical complications. Obesity increases the risk for diabetes mellitus (elevated blood sugar level), hypertension (elevated blood pressure), osteoarthritis (bone pain), obstructive sleep apnea (due to transient airway obstruction), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), gall bladder stones, and depression. Unfortunately, doctors are being the victims of this disease as a result of their long consulting hours, which leaves little room for exercise, modern-day stresses, and unhealthy eating patterns.
How do we Fight this Modern Day Epidemic?
Here are a few time-tested solutions.
- Never Skip Breakfast: Regularize your eating habits. Have a hearty breakfast, which will not only increase the fat metabolism throughout the day but will also give you enough energy to expend during the day. Do not overeat during dinner time. Give up on junk food, or at least restrict it to a bare minimum. Have frequent small meals. It is advisable to eat 6 to 8 times a day, with small to moderate servings.
- Get Adequate Physical Exercise: Brisk walking for an hour per day will do a world of good to everybody. It will keep us supple and our joints mobile. Walking is economical and injury free. Swimming is another great option to burn calories. It also comes with the advantage of being injury free as it is a non-weight-bearing exercise.
- Restrict Screen Time: Reduce screen time to less than an hour per day. By screen time, we mean interactions on social media platforms and watching television. These will only help us in slumping to our chairs and provide no motivation to move around. Play any form of sport. This not only helps in socializing with others but also is a fun way to remain fit.
- Practice Yoga: Yoga is another option to stay supple. It calms one's mind and also energizes oneself. Studies show that regular practice of yoga can increase the expression of a chemical called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which helps in fighting memory problems, sleeplessness, and depression.
- Bariatric Surgery: Those with a BMI of more than 40 would require bariatric surgery to help them reduce weight. It is a form of weight loss surgery, which modifies the person's depth and intensity of hunger. It is often advised as a last resort when all other conservative approaches fail to bring fruitful results.
The incidence and the prevalence of obesity is rising exponentially over the last few years. It is high time to tackle this lifestyle malady, which can wreck one's quality of life. Although we have failed to nip this disease in the bud, we can at least hope to halt its progression. Appropriate preventive measures and lifestyle alterations can bring drastic changes in the progression of obesity, which itself checks the development of associated medical conditions.