Obesity is a world wide epidemic. Approximately 30% of adults are obese and if the current trend persists the rate is estimated to be 50% by 2030. Children are also victims with approximately 30% being overweight or obese. Developed countries are the most affected and this has potential consequence for the economy.
On an individual level the consequences are dire: poor life quality and early death. Obesity is directly responsible for most of the prevalent chronic diseases: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and dyslipidemia. Obese individuals have a lower life expectancy. Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) more than 30 kg/m2 at age 40, were found to live 6-7 years less than normal weight individuals.
Immediate intervention is required and the solution is simple: weight management. Since this is a public health problem then the burden of intervention falls on all: government, schools, healthcare providers, employers, and individuals. A number of national programs have been put in place in the U.S. and on going efforts are apparent. This is probably the explanation behind the stabilization of the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. Government and schools can continue to provide education on proper nutrition and physical activity while putting measures in place to encourage compliance with these recommendations. Employers can do the same. Healthcare providers need to focus more attention on prevention rather than tertiary treatment. Individuals can and should take control of their own health and the health of their family.
Health care researchers have provided risk categories for those who are overweight and obese. This category helps determine the degree of interventions required based on the risk of adverse events in the future. Individuals at low risk include normal weight and those who are overweight (BMI 25-29.9) but healthy. Individuals at moderate risk are overweight with other risk factors (such as heart disease, smoking, or hypertension) and those who have a BMI 30-34.9. Individuals are considered to be high risk if their BMI is 35-40 or 30-34.9 with other risk factors. Finally, individuals with BMI more than 40 are considered to be at very high risk.
Low risk individuals should receive education and counselling on physical activity and proper nutrition. This provides them with the information they need to maintain a normal weight throughout the course of their life. This education should be a part of a regular school curriculum and should be provided at all healthcare encounters. Those at moderate risk should have weight loss/management interventions that include education, diet modification, implementation of regular exercise and behaviour modification if required. They can also be considered for medication therapy if the initial interventions are not effective. Individuals at high risk and very high risk should have aggressive interventions, which include the above, but also medications, lifestyle interventions and bariatric surgery.
Individuals should take control of their own health. You can start by educating yourself on proper nutrition and physical activity. Implementing a regular routine of healthy eating and exercise is good for you, your family and your future generations. If you are overweight or obese then you should start now. Your healthcare providers should be able to assist. If not, donít get frustrated. The Internet and smartphone applications have made it easy to get information and support. Your decision to make the proper lifestyle changes can add years to your life.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!