According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is defined as, “a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on health, both reducing life expectancy and increasing incidence of health problems”.
There is much stigma associated with obesity and many people do not believe it is a disease, rather they consider it a choice. In order for a condition to be classified as a disease it must meet three criteria, as laid out by the American Medical Association, namely: the condition must impair normal bodily functioning, it must have characteristic signs and/or symptoms and lastly, it must cause harm or mortality. It is one of the more obvious conditions to spot, even to a non-professional, it greatly increases the risk of various other diseases and statistics show it to be a prominent cause of death worldwide. It is, therefore, classified as a disease.
This is clearly a problem which plagues many South Africans, as a recent study by the South African medical research council displayed truly shocking results. As much as 61 percent of the South African population is obese or overweight. The South African Department of Health spokesperson, Phil Hadebe attributes this problem to poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.
The problem is much more complex than it seems on the surface. In a study done by GlaxoSmithKline, they reveal that 78 percent of obese and 52 percent of morbidly obese people believe that they are in good health.
Obesity has many detrimental effects on the human body and is associated with increased risk of cardiac disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer. It disturbs your bodies ability to function optimally and, as a result, opens it up to many high-risk diseases.
Obesity can be easily detected by performing a simple Body Mass Index (BMI) calculation. A person simply takes their weight (in kilograms) and divides that by the square of their height (in meters). Optimally, your BMI should be in the 20-25 range, however, if your result is greater than 30, it should be reason for concern, as statistics show that upwards of 7.7 percent of deaths in Europe are related to excess weight. Even more concerning is the fact that if you are a woman with a BMI over 32, your mortality rate is twice as high.
Obesity can be managed with effort from the individual in the forms of increased excercise, a healthy diet, low in saturated fats and by cutting down on certain high risk factors, such as alcohol consumption and smoking.
If you believe you are at risk, have a discussion with your healthcare practitioner. In the majority of cases it is preventable and can be managed with proper care.