What are the health risks of obesity?

What are the health risks of obesity?

The number of people with obesity in the UK has more than trebled since 1980. Experts now say that the condition is reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions.

A person is considered obese if they are very overweight with a high degree of body fat.

Some experts believe obesity is responsible for more ill health than smoking. Being significantly overweight is linked to a wide range of health problems, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Indigestion
  • Gallstones
  • Some cancers
  • Snoring and sleep apnoea
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Infertility

The most common way to assess if a person is obese is to check their body mass index. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared.

If your BMI is above 25 you are overweight. A BMI of 30-40 is considered obese, while above 40 is very obese. A BMI of less than 18.5 is underweight.

On average a physically active man needs around 2,500 calories per day, while a woman needs 2,000. If we eat any more, some of the extra energy is stored for later use, mostly as fat.

This mechanism was life-saving during our hunter-gatherer days when food was often scarce. However, the boom in plentiful, cheap food, coupled with a general decrease in physical activity, means that those stores of fat are rarely called on. Instead they continue to grow.

One a recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, April 18, 2012, revealed that an area of the brain related to addiction and reward lights up when a participant is shown calorie rich, fatty foods compared to healthy food.

Another area of the brain associated with pleasant tastes and reward, called the, is activated when we eat fatty foods.

At the same time, people are increasingly less active and therefore burning fewer calories.

Studies have also shown that housewives in the 1950s were significantly slimmer than women today. This could be because their daily lives involved much more physical activity, including walking more and having fewer labour-saving devices. Or it could just be that there was no TV.

Unless obesity is tackled, the government predicts that 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in Britain will be obese by 2050.

Regardless of the cause all the experts agree that we must;

  1. Make better choices about what we eat
  2. Moderate the amount we eat
  3. Take regular exercise

Taking these 3 steps can lead to great improvements in your quality of life and a better outlook for your old age;

  • Less stress
  • More energy and vitality
  • Less depression and self esteem problems
  • Better overall health
  • Increased disease resistance
  • Improved sex life and increased libido.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke

If you are struggling to make these changes by yourself we offer fitness classes and great advice on health and nutrition in March and surrounding towns in Cambridgeshire.

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