3 min read
21 Nov

According to the South African Sugar Journal, obesity is a global problem affecting approximately 800 million people in the world, with childhood obesity expected to increase by 60% over the next decade, reaching 250 million by 2030.  In South Africa 7 in 10 women and 3 in 10 men are overweight or obese.  A more worrying statistic is that approximately 1 in 7 children in South Africa between the ages of 6 and 14 are overweight or obese and over 13% of children under 5 are overweight or obese. Obesity is the key underlying risk factor for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Obesity is on the Rise 

Let’s look at some of the causes of obesity as published by WorldObesityDay.org: 

  • Biology - The human body has built-in mechanism to protect itself from starvation – this can make it hard to maintain weight loss.
  • Food - High calorie foods that offer little to no other nutritional value have become easily accessible and affordable, thus contributing to the rapid rise in obesity.
  • Genetic risk - Our genes account for somewhere between 40-70% to the risk of developing obesity.
  • Healthcare Access - Without access to trained healthcare professionals, most people who suffer from obesity will not reach and maintain a healthy long-term weight goal.
  • Life Events - Prenatal (before pregnancy), early adulthood, pregnancy, illnesses and medications can all influence weight gain.
  • Marketing - There is a complex relationship between food systems and health, with marketing of foodstuffs having a link to obesity.
  • Mental Health - Mental health disorders, and their associated medications, can lead to weight gain.
  • Sleep - Lack of sleep disturbs hormones which can affect your weight, as can high levels of stress.
  • Stigma - Weight discrimination and stigmas can have significant consequences for somebody with obesity.

What's more, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease and other serious health complications

  • Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Having these disorders at the same time is a condition called metabolic syndrome, which can lead to an increased risk for heart disease and kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease, is twice as common in obese adults than in those who are at a healthy weight.
  • Obesity can also lead to arthritis, which is caused by stress on your joints.

A Likely Trigger for Heart Disease 

Obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure are a common grouping of risk factors for people with heart disease. Managing all these risk factors will help reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Talk to your doctor about medication that may help control your risk factors for heart disease. If you are prescribed medicine, take them exactly as directed and for as long as your doctor recommends. 

What You Can Do Today 

The best weight-reduction diet is one that you can sustain over time, is safe over the long term for overall health and empowers you to keep the weight off permanently AKA a lifestyle! Changing dietary and lifestyle habits, instead of simply cutting out certain foods or counting calories, will increase the likelihood of achieving weight loss.  There is a general perception that almost no one succeeds in long-term maintenance of weight loss. However, research has shown the opposite. The National Weight Control Registry in the United States consists of information on public individuals who have lost an average of 33 kg and maintained the loss for more than 5 years. The registry lists the activities below as most effective to maintain long term weight loss: 

  • Most report continuing to maintain a low-calorie, low-fat diet and doing high levels of activity.
  • 98% modified their food intake in some way to lose weight.
  • 94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking.
  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

If you stay around Gauteng, you can pop into our practice for a free Diabetes, High blood pressure and BMI screening including health education and promotion.

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