What is Obesity?
Obesity, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body”. This clearly describes the condition but this also covers being overweight as well. The science of medicine has a more specific definition for this condition and it is based on health risks. They use the measure of body mass index (BMI) to objectively classify the conditions of overweight, obesity and morbid obesity.
The body mass index attempts to adjust for differences in height so weight alone is not used as the measure. It is limited by the inability to adjust for muscle mass but is a sufficient way to categorize groups. It is calculated by dividing the weight in kilograms by the height in meters squared.
Normal weight is a BMI of 18.5- 25kg/m2. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25-29.9 while obesity is defined as a BMI more than 30. An individual with a BMI greater than 40 has morbid obesity. Those defined as overweight are at low risk for poor health outcome while the obese group is at moderate risk. Those with morbid obesity are at high risk of poor health outcomes.
These categories are designed to assist with counselling and treatment option. Individuals who are at high risk need urgent, aggressive interventions to correct the problem before they encounter life-threatening health issues. Those with simple obesity may require urgent intervention if there are other factors that increases the risk of poor health outcome.
Another less commonly discussed measure is the waist circumference. A waist circumference of more than 40 inches (102 cm) in men and more than 35 inches (88cm) in women is considered to be abnormal. In this situation the risks of cardiometabolic problems are quite high. This includes hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, elevated lipids and other vascular diseases.
Classifying the degrees of obesity provides the health community with a standard way of communicating, studying the consequences of obesity and counselling patients on their risks and recommended interventions. Individuals can use this information to adjust their life-styles to manage their weight before it reaches a point where there are health risks.
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!
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