The world is in a constant state of change. With this change comes good things like technological advancements which in turn result in easier ways of doing things. However, to every positive, there is a negative. In the current world, people aim to do things faster and more efficiently than before. While this is a good thing, the dependency on machines that simplify work is high, as is that on fast foods. Fast foods, also known as junk food, are very popular among the working class citizens of any country who view them as an easy way of saving time and energy, while still achieving the intended goal of being satisfied. In retrospect, these foods are also very popular among the lazy in society; those who just can’t pull their weight, mainly children and young adults in schools and colleges. This has resulted in the emergence of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. This paper therefore aims to discuss to a great extent one of these lifestyle diseases, obesity; what it is, what causes it, its health effects and how to manage it.
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According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 6th Edition, to be obese is to be very fat, in a way that is not healthy. Wikipedia defines obesity as a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. Obesity is therefore a medical condition resulting from a person having excess fat on their body. Wikipedia further explains that obesity is defined by body mass index (BMI) and evaluated in terms of fat distribution via the waist- hip ratio and total cardio- vascular risk factors. Thus, there are several levels of obesity. A person with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is classified as being overweight. One with a BMI of 30.0 to 34.9 is rated as having class one obesity, those falling under the category of class two obesity have a BMI of between 35.0 and 39.9, while those with a BMI of greater than or equal to 40 have class three obesity.Any body mass index greater than or equal to 35 or 40 is categorized under severe obesity, any BMI of greater than or equal to 35 and undergoing health conditions related to obesity is referred to as morbid obesity, as is that greater than or equal to 40 to 44.9. In addition, a body mass index greater than or equal to 45 or 50 is referred to as super- obesity. However, some countries have categorize obesity differently as compared to others because it occurs at different BMI levels with varying races.
Many factors have been attributed to as being major causes of obesity. First is the excessive intake of food energy accompanied by little or no physical activity. This is the main cause of obesity since all the energy accumulated in the body is not spent thus resulting in the accumulation of fat.
Secondly is the increase in reliance on machinery and cars which has generally resulted in laziness. People have retreated to certain comfort zones, allowing things to be done for them and in the process, failing to engage in physical activities that would help burn the fat accumulated in the body.
Other factors that have been credited with resulting in obesity include not smoking, or reducing the rate at which one smokes, since smoking tends to reduce appetite; an increase in the intake of medication that result in weight gain; pregnancy in older ages which generally increases the risk of one’s children becoming obese; generationally- passed genetic weight factors; an increase in ethnicities and age groups that tend to be heavier; individuals similar in genotype and phenotype make-up mating thus resulting in an increased likelihood of the concentration of factors that could lead to obesity; the lack of sleep, and pollutants from the environment that result in lower metabolism of lipids, among other factors.
The health effects of obesity
Obesity is associated with contributing to various diseases like asthma, diabetes, cancer and cardio- vascular diseases. Excessive weight gain and fat concentration in the body is bound to result in high blood sugar levels as well as difficulties in breathing, hence fostering the emergence of many other opportunistic ailments.
Obesity also results in high mortality rates as it reduces the life expectancy of those with the disease. Stuudies have shown that the rates at which women with a BMI of over 32kg/m2 have died in the recent years have doubled. It is estimated that obesity can reduce the life of a person by upto seven years.
The risk of one acquiring many mental, as well as physical conditions is usually heightened by obesity. Medical disorders like diabetes mellitus type 2, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and high levels of fatty molecules known as triglycerides in the blood arise as a result of obesity. People with obesity also ttend to suffer psychologically as a result of being stigmatized by the society. They are usually looked down upon, or considered objects of societal ridicule and comedy. In a society that increasingly emphasizes the beauty of being thin and shaped like a model, obese people tend to suffer from low self- esteem and some even become suicidal, and willing to do anything to avoid the stigma.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), traditional health concerns such as infectious diseases will soon be replaced by obesity as the major cause of illness. This lifestyle disease is increasingly becoming not only a health problem but also a policy one due to its prevalence, health effects and costs.
How to manage obesity
In order to manage obesity, two key measures must be put in place. These include : physical exercise and appropriate dieting. People with this condition need to engage in active physical exercises such as running, doing sit- ups, lunges and squats. Cardio exercises like swimming and rope- skipping are accredited with helping one to burn fat more quickly since they involve all muscles of the body and regulate one’s breathing too. It is often advisable that people dealing with weight problems engage the services of physical trainers or enrol in gymn memberships so as to get professional counsel. They are advised not to over- exert themselves nor give up when the going gets tough.
Appropriate dieting on the other hand involves eating correct food portions; not too large nor too small, balancing all the food groups; proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates, and being disciplined enough to avoid junk food high in sugar and fat concentration.While these two measures would seem easy for the ordinary person, they are labourious to an obese person who will require not only physical but also emotional support from those around them.Parents are advised to feed their children well- balanced foods and to monitor their participation in physical activities in order to reduce chances of them dealing with obesity in the future.
Medication such as orlistat have been introduced world- wide to help overweight people deal with the weight and have proven successful in the short- term though long- term effects of these medication is yet to be determined. Bariatric surgery has also proven to be a successful way of dealing with obesity, though the high costs and risks involved have scared many off.