Obesity Explained

A brief definition, cause and effects of obesity

Australian obesity statistics indicates the condition is on the rise in Australia. The facts about adult obesity are clear about the dangers; whilst there are some cures for obesity the cost of obesity in the Australian population is escalating each year.

Obesity is a medical condition, caused by accumulation of excess body fat, with the risk of reduced life expectancy and increased health problems. Overweight and obesity are both terms for weight ranges widely considered unhealthy for a given height, with increased likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

The primary cause of obesity is generally considered to be a combination of excessive food energy intake and a lack of physical activity. A lesser occurrence is from genetic inheritence.

An obese person is greatly at risk of various diseases, particularly heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes,  particular types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Obesity is measured by body mass index (BMI). The BMI compares an individual’s weight and height, defining the result between overweight and obese.

BMI is calculated the same way for both adults and children.
The calculation is based on the formula:  weight (kg) / [height (m)]2

  With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Since height is commonly measured in centimeters, divide height in centimeters by 100 to obtain height in meters.

  Example: Weight = 68 kg, Height = 165 cm (1.65m)
Calculation: 68 ÷ (1.65)2 = 24.98

  • An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.
  • An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
    • Women tend to have more body fat than men.
    • Older people, on average, tend toward more body fat than younger adults.
    • Highly trained athletes may have a high BMI due to increased muscularity rather than excess body fat.

Someone’s likelihood of developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases can be estimated by looking at two other predictors:

  • The individual’s waist circumference (because abdominal fat is a predictor of risk for obesity-related diseases).
  • Other risk factors the individual has for diseases and conditions associated with obesity (for example, high blood pressure or physical inactivity).

The link between BMI and health risks is well established. The dangers to overweight and obese individuals are increased risk of many diseases and health conditions:

  • High blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension refers to increased pressure as blood flows through the arteries. Elevated blood pressure forces the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood throughout the body.
  • High blood cholesterol or dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of fat in the blood) occurs when levels of cholesterol (a type of fat that your body needs to work properly) and other fats in the blood are not normal. There are different types of fats in the blood, including LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol), and triglycerides. Too much LDL and triglycerides, and too little HDL increases your risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and other circulatory problems.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin and/or the body’s cells have trouble using the insulin it does produce. Insulin is necessary for sugar (glucose) to be taken up by body cells for energy production. Without insulin, blood sugar levels build up in the blood. If untreated, serious complications result.
  • Coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease (CHD or CAD): CHD or CAD is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women. It is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart.
  • Stroke occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a portion of the brain is blocked. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die after a few minutes. There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. These may be caused by clogged arteries from accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that collect on the artery walls, or from other causes like a blood clot traveling from elsewhere in the body to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain.
  • Gallbladder disease occurs when bile, which is normally stored in the gall bladder and helps digest dietary fat, becomes concentrated and thick. Gallstones are formed when bile hardens.
  • Bed Sores (decubitis ulcers) or pressure sores are interchangeable terms for ulcers resulting from an injury to the skin and where the tissue has died under it, formed by pressure, shearing and moisture. Typically they are caused by prolonged sitting or lying in the same position.
  • Osteoarthritis is a gradual deterioration of the joint tissue due to excessive wear and tear.
  • Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, or shallow breaths occur, during sleep because of partial or total blockage of the airway.
  • Cancer, including cancer of the esophagus, breast, endometrium, colon and rectum, kidneys, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and possibly others are associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis(NASH) NAFLD is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver. In NASH, fat in the liver is accompanied by inflammation and fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. NASH is an advanced form of NAFLD. NAFLD and NASH affect the liver in the same way that alcoholic liver disease does, but NAFLD and NASH occur in people who drink little or no alcohol.

When an obese individual recovers from treatment or has reduced mobility specialised disability aids and equipment is often required. Specialised heavy duty disability and mobility aids are expensive and hard to source. there are few service providers for this type of equipment and the range available can often be very limited.

Types of heavy duty disability and mobility aids to assist bariatric individuals include: heavy duty wheelchairs, heavy duty toilet and bathroom aids, heavy duty patient hoists, Bariatric hospital beds, extra wide heavy duty rollators, etc. Most of items listed here are available from some disability equipment suppliers for hire, however some items will only be available for purchase due to limited demand.

More information about Choosing Bariatric Aids & Equipment can be found here

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