In our looks-obsessed society, people often think that being overweight is an appearance issue. But being overweight can seriously affect a person’s health and this can have a great impact on quality of life.
More people are overweight today than ever before. We are in the middle of an ‘obesity epidemic’ and this is affecting people of all ages.
Why do people become overweight?
Some people have a genetic tendency to gain weight more easily because they burn calories more slowly. During times when food was scarce this was a real advantage. But now that food is available ‘24/7’ an efficient metabolism that once ensured survival now works to our disadvantage.
Less active lifestyles, unhealthy food choices, bigger portions and high calorie, low nutrient snacks are all contributing to the obesity epidemic.
When people consume more calories than they burn off, their bodies store the extra calories as fat. When people fall into the habit of eating more calories than they burn, they build up too much fat in their bodies.
Eventually, the body gets to a point where the amount of body fat can have a negative effect on a person’s health. The terms ‘overweight’, ‘obese’ and ‘morbidly obese’ are used to describe when someone is at greatest risk of developing weight-related health problems.
Reducing body fat reduces the risk of disease
Excess body fat is linked to major physical discomfort and disease.
If you are obese it takes more energy for you to breathe because your heart has to work harder to pump blood to the lungs and to the excess fat throughout the body. This can cause your heart to become enlarged and can result in high blood pressure and erratic heartbeats.
Obese people also tend to have high cholesterol levels, making them more prone to arteriosclerosis. This becomes life threatening when blood vessels become so narrow or blocked that vital organs like the heart, brain or kidneys are deprived of blood. Additionally, the narrowing of the blood vessels forces the heart to pump harder, and blood pressure rises. High blood pressure can cause heart attack, kidney failure and stroke.
Clinical studies have shown a link between excess body fat and the incidence of cancer. By itself, body fat is thought to be a storage place for carcinogens in both men and women. In women, excess body fat has been linked to a higher rate of breast and uterine cancer and in men, a higher rate of colon and prostate cancer.
There is also a delicate balance between blood sugar, body fat and the hormone insulin. Excess blood sugar is stored in the liver and other vital organs where it is converted into fat. As fat cells become full, they tend to take in less blood sugar. In some obese people the pancreas produces more and more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. As the body can’t use this insulin, the system becomes overwhelmed. This poor regulation of blood sugar and insulin results in diabetes.
Excess body fat is also linked to gall bladder disease, gastro-intestinal disease, sexual dysfunction, osteoarthritis and stroke.