Learn to Prevent

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults

It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

The WHO definition is:

  • a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
  • a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity.

Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Risk factors

Obesity occurs when an individual eats or drinks more calories than he/she burns through exercise and normal daily activities as the body stores these extra calories as fat.

Obesity is caused by a number of factors;

Genes, affect how much of fat is stored, its distribution in the body, amount of calories burned while exercising and how the body converts food into energy.

Family lifestyle. Obesity tends to run in families because of similar eating, lifestyle and activity habits

Inactivity. more calories are consumed every day than you burnt off via exercise and normal daily activities.

Unhealthy diet and eating habits. A diet that's high in calories, lacking in fruits and vegetables, full of fast food, missing breakfast, and laden with high-calorie beverages and oversized portions contributes to weight gain.

Quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is often associated with weight gain as the inhibition of decreased appetite is removed . Yet quitting smoking is still a greater benefit to your health than continuing to smoke.

Pregnancy. Sometimes women tend to over eat with the notion that the more they eat the healthier the baby will be and then women find this weight difficult to lose after the baby is born.

Lack of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or getting too much sleep at night can cause changes in hormones that increase your appetite. Some people tend to crave foods which are high in calories and carbohydrates and can contribute to weight gain.

Certain medications. Some medications can lead to weight gain if you don't compensate through diet or activity. These medications include some antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, diabetes medications, antipsychotic medications, steroids and beta blockers.

Age. Obesity can occur at any age, even in young children. But as you age, amount of muscle in your body tends to decrease. This leads to a decrease in metabolism. Which makes it harder to keep off excess weight.

Social and economic issues. Certain social and economic issues may be linked to obesity. You may not have safe areas to exercise, you may not have been taught healthy ways of cooking or you may not have money to buy healthier foods. In addition, the people you spend time with may influence your weight — you're more likely to become obese if you have obese friends or relatives.

Medical problems. Such as Hypothyroid, Prader-Willi syndrome, Cushing's syndrome. Problems, such as arthritis, can lead to decreased activity, which may result in weight gain.

Measures to prevent risk factors

Obesity usually results from a combination of causes and contributing factors which can be prevented by;

Be active, as this burns more calories and reduces the fat deposited and over a period causes weight loss.

Eat healthy as a diet that's high in calories, lacking in fruits and vegetables, fast food, missing breakfast, high-calorie beverages and oversized portions cause weight gain.

Sleep optimally for a period ranging from 6-8 hours, if tired in between can take a power nap in the afternoon.

Treatment options available

Treatment of obesity is multi-modality and sometimes multi-disciplinary.

It begins with comprehensive lifestyle management which consists of;

  • Diet management, calorie restricted diet according to gender and work
  • Incorporating/increasing physical activity
  • Behavior modification in response to food such as not using it for rewards.
  • Calorie restricted diet physical activity
Pharmacologic therapy

Few drugs are available for the treatment of obesity but their effectiveness is limited to production and maintenance of weight loss rather than cure plus the benefits fade when the drugs are stopped. Since all medications inherently have more risks than diet and exercise do, pharmacologic therapy is used only in patients in whom the benefit justifies the risk e.g. Oristat


In patients with morbid obesity associated with comorbidities, bariatric surgery is the only available therapeutic modality associated with clinically significant and relatively sustained weight loss.

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