Being overweight is a major risk factor for obesity, a chronic medical condition. It causes a host of problems not just diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Severely obese people have difficulty in performing day-to-day activities. For example, some of them find it difficult to tie their shoe laces, descend stairs or fit in one seat on a plane, bus or theatre.
There are more than 150 million obese people in India. Here, we are not referring to the pleasantly plump ones, but to the kind of people who just seem to keep getting larger— no matter what they do, how little they eat or how much ever they exercise.
People work long hours, eat junk food high in calories, lead a stressful life with no time to exercise. It’s a viscous cyclle … the person gains weight, so becomes less active and because s/he is less active, s/he gains more weight.
Obesity is the #2 preventable killer disease today. Overweight and obese patients suffer from many diseases and often end up treating the individual conditions, rather than treating the root cause. Let us take a look at some other serious problems that are caused by being overweight.
- Gall stones: The incidence of gall stones is high in women who are overweight and according to studies about 23 per cent of obese individuals suffer from gall stones.
- Skin diseases: Obese or overweight individuals are prone to skin conditions like varicose veins, and bacterial or fungal skin infections due to friction in skin folds in the lower belly and groin region. Low hygiene in these sites often results in an unpleasant body odour, which may contribute to social isolation and depression.
- Hernia: Weight is a risk factor for umbilical and other abdominal hernias, both as a feature of their occurrence and as factor in recurrence after surgical repair. People planning to undergo ventral hernia repair are strictly advised weight loss. This improves the technical circumstance of the operation and helps reduce potential recurrence.
- Intimacy and sexual satisfaction: It has been shown that eating as well as feeling physical satisfaction can gratify and balance stress, reduce anxiety, anger, loneliness and depression. Studies have shown a decrease in sexual activities and satisfaction being reported during periods of weight gain and increase during weight loss. People have also reported increased sexual activity after undergoing weight loss surgery.
- Gynaecological issues: The adverse effect of obesity includes gynaecological and obstetric derangements. The incidence of menstrual dysfunction increases proportionally to the degree of increasing weight. Common gynaecological problems associated with excess weight are irregular menstrual cycles, menorrhagia [abnormally heavy and prolonged menstrual period] and anovulation [a menstrual cycle in which ovulation fails to occur]—all due to the imbalance of different sex hormones.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnoea [OSA]: It is a medical condition that affects quality of life and is defined as complete or severe reduction in respiratory air-flow during sleep. This results in frequent arousals from sleep and daytime drowsiness. Significant improvement is seen in OSA in individuals who lose 50 per cent of their excess weight.
- Renal disease: Recent research indicates that obesity causes renal disease like renal failure and proteinuria and if combined with hypertension or diabetes, can have a synergetic effect on renal dysfunction and damage. This renders the patients permanently dependent on dialysis or kidney transplant. Furthermore, there is evidence that weight loss improves renal function.
- Breast cancer: Research shows that weight gain can increase the risk of breast cancer by up to one and a half times. According to the data presented by the American Association for Cancer Research, the risk of death from breast cancer is 2.4 times higher in obese women than women of normal weight.
- Joint and back pain: Overweight individuals are more prone to joint and back pain than indivduals with normal weight. The knee joints often found take the brunt of the weight and get damaged. Orthopaedic surgeons advise patients to reduce weight in order to make them eligible for knee joint replacements. The knee joint replacement surgery may not be helpful in the long run if the patient is grossly overweight.
- Psychological factors: Obese individuals confide to their homes and hence may not have friends or family to share feelings. This leads to depression, lower self-esteem and negative emotions.
Apart from these, obese people tire quickly and are always short of breath when climbing stairs because of the decreased lung capacity. This leads to low levels of stamina and inability to exercise. Hence, it is extremely important to maintain weight at all times to live a healthy and happy life.