Obesity and Body Mass Index (BMI)

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What is Obesity?

When you weigh more than what is considered a healthy weight, you are said to be overweight or obese. BMI (Body mass index) is used to screen a person’s weight and find out if they are normal, overweight or obese. As per the World Health Organisation, there are over 650 million obese adults (aged above 18) and over 340 million children and adolescents (aged 5-19) who were either overweight or obese, as of 2016.

What is BMI?

BMI or the Body Mass Index is a measure of your body size and is used as a screening tool to indicate whether you are normal, overweight or obese. 

How can I calculate my BMI?

To calculate your BMI, use the following formula:

BMI = BMI = kg/m2

(Your body weight in Kilograms divided by the square of your height in meters) 

As per the National Institute of Health, 

  • A BMI <18.5 indicates you are underweight
  • A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 indicates that you are normal
  • A BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 indicates you are overweight
  • A BMI above 30.0 indicates you are Obese

What causes obesity?

Your body weight is influenced by genetic, behavioral and hormonal factors. When you consume more calories than you can burn through physical activity, your body tends to store these excess calories as fat. This fat accumulation can make you gain weight, increase your BMI and in turn, lead to obesity.

Here’s a list of the other causes of obesity:

Sedentary lifestyle– When you are inactive, you don’t burn enough calories. You BMI tend to increase when you take in more calories than you burn via exercise and everyday activities. 

Unhealthy eating habits– When you consume unhealthy food such as fast food and high-calorie drinks, weight gain is unavoidable.

Genetics plays a vital role in how your body burns calories during physical activity and thereby influences the amount of fat your body stores.

Certain Medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome which decreases physical activity can also lead to obesity.  

Medications like steroids, beta blockers, antidepressants, antipsychotic medications might cause weight gain if you do not compensate it via exercise or diet. 

Socio-economic factors such as the absence of safe areas to exercise or not being able to afford healthy foods can also influence your weight gain. 

Lack of Sleep can lead to hormonal changes that increase your appetite and lead to excessive weight gain. 

Pregnancy can make women gain weight and make it difficult to lose 

Age factors can also lead to obesity due to the hormonal changes and the increase of inactive lifestyle that makes you gain weight. 

What are the complications of obesity?

Obesity is likely to cause the following potentially serious health conditions:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides & low HDL cholesterol
  • Heart diseases
  • Stroke
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Gallbladder diseases
  • Cancers (of uterus, cervix, endometrial, breast, ovaries, colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney or prostate)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Breathing disorders
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Metabolic syndrome

Obesity is associated with a higher risk of death due to the diseases mentioned above. Also, the life expectancy of an obese person is reduced by about 5-20 years. But don’t worry just yet. All of these are preventable if you could make certain lifestyle modifications. 

Prevention is Key!

Whether you are currently overweight, obese or at an unhealthy weight, you can take certain steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and the associated health issues. 

Here are a few lifestyle modifications that help reduce your weight and lower your BMI:

  • Regular Workout- A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is recommended to prevent weight gain. 
  • Follow a healthy diet which is low in calories and high in nutrients. 
  • Avoid unhealthy foods that are high in fat and calories.
  • Keep monitoring your weight regularly to detect even small weight gains. 
  • For extreme cases, FDA-approved weight loss medicines and surgery is recommended.

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