During Obesity Awareness Week, let's look at NHS Digital's recent Health Survey for England 2018: Overweight and obesity in adults and children. Sobering statistics:
- The majority of adults in England were overweight or obese: 67% of men and 60% of women. This included 26% of men and 29% of women who were obese and 2% of men and 4% of women who were morbidly obese.
- Adult obesity was associated with neighbourhood deprivation. In the least deprived areas 20% of adults were obese compared to 36% of adults living in the most deprived areas.
- 56% of adults were at increased, high or very high risk of chronic disease due to their waist circumference and BMI (body mass index).
- Women were more likely than men to be in the high or very high risk categories.
What are the risks of obesity:
Obesity has long been identified as a major public health problem, both internationally and within the UK. Being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of a number of common diseases and causes of premature death, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. For individuals with excess weight, the risk of poor health increases sharply with increasing BMI. Obesity in childhood is directly associated with various health conditions and being an obese child can have long term consequences for health in adulthood. Childhood obesity is a strong predictor of adult obesity. Risks include:
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty doing physical activity
- Often feeling very tired
- Joint and back pain
- Low confidence and self-esteem, feeling isolated
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and atherosclerosis (where fatty deposits narrow your arteries), which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke
- Metabolic syndrome, a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity
- Several types of cancer, including bowel cancer, breast cancer and womb cancer
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), where stomach acid leaks out of the stomach and into the gullet
- Reduced fertility
- Osteoarthritis, a condition involving pain and stiffness in your joints
- Sleep apnoea, a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep, which can lead to daytime sleepiness with an increased risk of road traffic accidents, as well as a greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease
- Liver disease and kidney disease
- Pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia, when a woman experiences a potentially dangerous rise in blood pressure during pregnancy.
Obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of three to ten years, depending on how severe it is. It's estimated that obesity and being overweight contribute to at least one in every 13 deaths in Europe.
Causes of obesity
Obesity is generally caused by consuming more calories, particularly those in fatty and sugary foods, than you burn off through physical activity. The excess energy is stored by the body as fat. Obesity is an increasingly common problem because for many people modern living involves eating excessive amounts of cheap high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting down at desks, on sofas or in cars. There are also some underlying health conditions that can occasionally contribute to weight gain, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), although these types of conditions do not usually cause weight problems if they're effectively controlled with medicines.
What can you do to maintain a healthy weight?
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet, consisting of 3 main meals (a couple of snacks can be eaten if needed)
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day
- Get active, aim to take part in at least five 30 minute exercise sessions each week, plus strengthening exercises
- Plan your meals ahead of time
- Connect with others, helping each other on your weight loss journey will make motivation.
It's always a good idea to get the advice of a healthcare professional before starting on any weight loss/exercise programme.