Being obese does not just mean carrying excess body fat, it also means an increase in risks for a number of different health problems. A person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) is often used as a marker to ascertain whether the weight someone is carrying is creating health risks.

A BMI above 25 indicates that someone may be overweight. A BMI over 30 and we are looking at obesity. In addition to the BMI, it’s important to look at how fat is distributed on the body.

You can look at your waist: hip ratio (ideal for men is 0.9 and 0.85 or more for women) to ascertain your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome because obesity may trigger fat tissue to release pro-inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines, which may lead to insulin resistance.

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Health problems caused by obesity

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs as a result of decreased sensitivity of the insulin receptors as a result of insulin resistance, resulting in high levels of sugar in the blood and not enough getting into the cells to be stored as energy.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is seven times higher in obese people. Complications of diabetes can include damage to nerves, kidneys and eyes and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The condition is best managed through diet and increased activity levels. Increasing antioxidant intake helps to reduce free radical damage to cells, and eating an anti-inflammatory aids with reducing systemic inflammation. Certain herbs are very useful in blood sugar management, including fenugreek, gymnema, burdock and cinnamon.

Cardiovascular disease, hypertension and high cholesterol

Possible cardiovascular-related complications of diabetes mellitus include coronary atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, strokes and peripheral arterial disease. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease is far greater in diabetics, while prognosis for survival is worse than for non-diabetics.

Hypertension (or high blood pressure) occurs twice as often in diabetics than non-diabetics so adding obesity into the mix increases its risks significantly (and potentially the severity of all complications that occur as a result, such as eye, nerve and kidney damage).

Diabetes also increases the risk of high triglycerides, and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and may lower HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol levels through complex metabolic pathways which in turn increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

Gallstones and gallbladder problems are also more prevalent in obese people.

Osteoarthritis

Carrying excess weight puts additional stress on weight bearing joints such as the knees or ankles, which can lead to osteoarthritis, or wear and tear of the joints. Reducing your BMI from over 30 to even somewhere between 25-29 can reduce the incidence of knee osteoarthritis by 20-30%.

Fertility problems

Androgen levels can be raised due to increased adiponectin secretion from adipose tissue, leading to an imbalance in hormone levels. Increased risk of PCOS is also linked with obesity. Obesity may also impact pregnancy, bringing increased risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension or pre-eclampsia.

Obese men are more prone to erectile dysfunction and hormonal imbalances and may have fertility issues including poorer sperm quality.

health problems caused by obesity

Sleep apnea

It is when breathing stops repeatedly for 10 seconds or longer during sleep and this can be due to blockages of soft tissues of the mouth and throat.

The risks inherent in all these conditions are all lessened or prevented by getting down to a healthy weight – a BMI of 25 or under. This can be achieved through a combination of good nutrition and blood sugar control, portion size control, herbs, exercise and stress management.

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