For the past few decades, obesity has become an alarming health concern. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, over 650 million adults are obese. That is about 13% of the world’s 2016 population. In the United States alone, obesity is considered to be an epidemic, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release strategies to prevent obesity.
What is Obesity?
As defined by Mayo Clinic, obesity is a complicated disease involving an excessive amount of body fat. It isn’t just a physical concern but also a serious medical issue that is linked to other health problems and diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and particular cancers.
Obesity is usually due to genes, physiological, and environmental factors, combined with poor diet and physical activities. Fortunately, even moderate weight loss has a significant effect on preventing obesity and decreasing the risks of other health problems.
Health Conditions Linked to Obesity
Excess body fat strains the bones and organs and this is why obesity is associated with several health complications. The harmful amount of body fat can also cause hormonal and metabolism changes, as well as increases inflammation in the body.
Having obesity does not mean you’ll automatically develop the following health problems but it does increase the possibility.
Here are the health risks of obesity.
Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes develops when you have blood sugar higher than normal. Eventually and if it worsens, it’ll result in other health issues like heart disease, nerve damage, stroke, kidney disease, and vision problems.
Heart disease. Heart disease is more common in people with obesity. Fatty deposits may pile up in the arteries that supply the heart with blood. In addition, obese individuals have higher blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol which contributes to the development of heart disease.
Stroke. Stroke and heart disease are similar health conditions and share a few risks factors. Strokes happen because the blood supply to the brain is blocked. This can brain tissue damage and can lead to disabilities, like speech impairment, weakened muscles, and reduced thinking and reasoning skills.
High blood pressure. Having extra fat tissues means blood vessels need to circulate more blood. This also means that the heart is working more to pump blood around the body, which increases the extra pressure on the arteries walls. This is called high blood pressure or hypertension and can cause damage to the heart and the arteries.
Certain cancers. The link between obesity and cancer isn’t as clear-cut as the other health complications on the list since cancer is not a single disease but obesity can still increase the risks of developing certain cancers, like breast, colon, gallbladder, pancreatic, kidney, and prostate cancer.
Gallbladder disease. Our gallbladder stores a substance called bile which helps our body digest fats. Gallstones materialize when bile accumulates and hardens in the gallbladder. Since people with obesity have higher levels of cholesterols in their bile, this can lead to gallstones which require surgery to treat.
How to Prevent Obesity
Most chronic conditions can be prevented with a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Obesity is one of them. By doing enough physical activity and following a healthy diet, obesity can be prevented.
Here are some strategies on how to prevent obesity.
One of the prime reasons for obesity is due to a person’s poor diet. To lose weight and prevent obesity, here are a few simple changes you can make to your eating habits to prevent obesity.
More fruits and vegetables. According to the World Health Organization, there is substantial evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables decreases the risks of obesity. It is recommended to eat at least 5 to 7 servings of whole fruits and vegetables every day since they contain tons of nutrients that the body needs and is linked to lowering the risks of diabetes and insulin resistance.
Avoid processed food. Highly processed food such as fast food and boxed snack food are sources of empty calories that quickly accumulate and greatly contribute to weight gain.
Control sugar consumption. Keeping an eye on your consumption of added sugar is important as they are also prime reasons for excessive and unhealthy weight gain. Common sources of added sugar are sugary beverages, grain desserts like cookies and cakes, and dairy desserts like ice cream. A no sugar diet is ideal if you are looking to cut off your added sugar consumption.
It is recommended that average adults should at least get 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity a week. That means at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 5 days a week. Exercise does not only prevent obesity but also helps maintain and lose weight for a healthier lifestyle.
If intense physical activity is too much for you, brisk or fast pace walking is a sufficient activity that has significant health benefits such as lower weight, lower BMI, and lower waist circumference.
It is also highly recommended to keep active throughout the day by taking frequent stretch breaks, utilizing a standing desk to avoid sitting for too long, or finding a way to walk around the office or your home.
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain because it raises the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, it can also lead to poor diet and bad eating habits, as cortisol and other stress hormones can trigger “carb cravings” as well as make it difficult to exercise good decisions. All of these make it harder to prevent obesity.
Since stress is subjective, there are no definite ways how to beat it. You need to find out what personally works. It can be activities that relax you and make you happy, like a daily walk, engaging in yoga, meditating, listening to music, meeting with friends, or whatever it is that relaxes and makes you happy.