by Kimberly Allen RN
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that obesity has reached epidemic proportions and is currently the fifth leading cause of death worldwide with approximately 3 million adults die every year due to over weight and obesity. The WHO also estimates that over half a billion adults over the age of 20 are over weight and of those at least 200 million men and 300 million women are obese. It also estimates that over 40 million children that are under the age of five are over weight worldwide. The rate of obesity has been steadily increasing worldwide. However, in certain countries like the US, Canada, and Australia it is increasing at a rate that exceeds the rest of the world.
What is the difference between over weight and obese? Both over weight and obesity are measured using the body mass index or BMI measuring system which is determined by taking your weight in Kg and dividing it by the square of your height in meters. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined over weight as having a BMI that is 25 or above and obesity as 30 or over. Morbid obesity is a term used for people that have a BMI that is 40 and above. This means that the person is at least 100lbs over weight which will severely interfere with that persons health and normal body functions.
There are also numerous social and economic consequences related to over weight and obesity. The health care costs in the US alone are over $190 billion. It is estimated that in the US people spend up to $100 billion on diet products every year. Studies have also shown that employees with a BMI over 40 file two times the number of worker compensation claims than employees with a BMI between 18.5-24.9. People with a BMI over 40 also miss 12 times the number of work days as those with a BMI under 25. There are also increased costs in other areas, for example the fuel costs for airlines has gone over $275 million to carry the extra weight of their passengers. The health care industry has had to spend millions of dollars in building and remodeling everything from special lifting equipment to bariatric ambulances in order to be able to handle patients that are severely obese.
Other studies show that people that are over weight and/or obese have more difficulty getting a job, and those that have a job have trouble getting promoted in their job. They also make less money for the same job that non-obese people do. As most people know, obesity is more than a cosmetic problem. It is a chronic disease that leads to further chronic and severe health issues. People with a BMI that is over 40 reduce their life expectancy by 20 years. The list of potential health issues is extensive and includes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes along with a host of cardiac issues including hypertension, heart attack and stroke to name a few.
The cause of obesity basically comes down to consuming more calories than you burn. There are also other factors that contribute to the equation like age. As we get older our metabolism slows down so we don’t need the same number of calories. This means you can’t eat the same number of calories to go with the same activity level at 40 as you did at 20 or you’re going to gain weight. Also, men tend to have a higher metabolic rate than women, also women’s metabolic rate decreases even further after menopause. That’s why more women tend to be over weight than men especially as they get older. Studies have also shown that genetics plays a role. This does not mean that just because you are genetically predisposed to becoming over weight or obese that you are unable to change it. I know of many people that come from families with obesity that have been able to not only loose the weight but maintain it.
Of all the effects of obesity the emotional suffering is probably the most difficult to cope with. There is a great deal of significance placed on physical appearance by society. Many people stereo type and discriminate against obese people without consciously realizing it. This can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. If you are obese don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are numerous options available to help you loose excess weight and learn to maintain not only the weight loss but a healthier lifestyle.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com.