Obesity is one of the leading causes of lifestyle disorders. Doctors usually measure body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to screen and diagnose overweight and obesity. Anyone can gain weight and become obese if their caloric intake is much more than that used by their body. Genetics also play a key role in increasing your risk of obesity. However, there are other lifestyle factors such as poor eating habits, low level of physical activity, stress and lack of sleep, which can lead to weight gain. But one thing that most people are curious to know is how to know you are obese. Are there any signs and symptoms of obesity? Well, here is what you need to know about the symptoms and treatment of obesity.
What Are The Symptoms Of Obesity?
According to the American National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, there are no specific symptoms of obesity as well as overweight. However, there are certain signs which are taken into consideration to diagnose obesity. These include a high body mass index (BMI) and an unhealthy distribution of fat across the body.
BMI: Body mass index is used to determine if you are overweight or obese. BMI is defined as a measure of a person’s body fat as a result of the weight in relation to height. It is calculated as body weight (in kgs)/[height (meters)] squared. According to the World Health Organization, BMI is classified into four major categories namely –
Underweight: 15 – 19.9 kg/m2
Normal: 20 – 24.9 kg/m2
Overweight: 25 – 29.9 kg/m2
Obese: Greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2
For example, if you are a 30-year-old man who weighs 70 kgs and are 1.65 m tall, then the BMI is calculated as 70/[1.65]2, which equals 25.71 kg/m2. As the value falls under the overweight category, the person is considered to be overweight. Hence, if you have a BMI which is equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2, then you are considered as obese.
However, as per the 2009 Consensus Guidelines for Asian Indians, there was a suggestion that overweight and obesity be diagnosed using a slightly lower cut-off for BMI. According to the suggestion, people with a BMI value of 23 kg/m2 should be considered as overweight and those with a BMI value of 25 kg/m2 to be known as obese.
Unhealthy distribution of fat: Another common sign of being overweight or obese is an unhealthy distribution of fat all over the body. An unhealthy body fat distribution can be estimated by measuring your waist circumference. Fatty tissue is present all over the body and fats are required for the proper functioning of the body. However, excess accumulation of fats in the abdominal region can be a sign of concern as it increases your risk of health complications. So having an increased waist circumference not only suggests that you have an increased amount of fat in the abdomen but is a key sign of obesity.
Obesity if left untreated can lead to numerous health complications. Some of the common obesity-related complications include:
-Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
-Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
How Is Obesity Treated?
The treatment for obesity depends on the cause of obesity and the severity of the condition. The common treatment option includes lifestyle changes, weight loss programs, medicines, and surgery.
Lifestyle changes: This includes intake of low-calorie diet and an increase in physical activity to help you shed weight. Diet changes involve eating foods low in calories and following a customized diet plan as recommended by your dietitian to lower your overall caloric intake. Physical activity plays a key role in helping a person to lose weight and maintain weight. However, talk to your doctor to know what type and level of physical activity are right for you to lose weight.
Weight loss programs: You can even enroll in a weight loss program which helps you to lose weight. There are trained healthcare professionals who devise a customized weight loss plan according to your body type, level of physical activity and other customized strategies that can help you.
Medicines: If lifestyle measures to lose weight fail to show any results, your doctor might recommend the use of FDA-approved weight-loss drugs to treat overweight and obesity. These medicines work on the brain to decrease your appetite and in turn lose weight. Weight loss medicines are usually recommended along with lifestyle changes for added benefits. To know more about weight loss medicines, talk to your doctor about the same.
Surgery: It is usually the last resort for people who do not respond to lifestyle changes and medicines. You need to consult a doctor, who after weighing the pros and cons of the surgery and your condition, will let you know if you are eligible for the surgery. It is mostly recommended for people who develop obesity-related health complications. But just like any other surgeries, there are few complications of these weight loss surgeries which include internal bleeding, infection, and even death.
The three common weight loss surgeries include:
Gastric bypass surgery: In this, a small part of the stomach is connected to the middle part of the intestine (bypassing the first part of the intestine). This causes you to feel full after eating less amount of food and thus, cause weight loss
Gastrectomy: In this, a large portion of the stomach is surgically removed in order to decrease your intake of food, which in turn can help to lose weight.
Gastric banding surgery: In this, a band is placed around the upper part of the stomach which limits your intake of food and makes you feel full after eating small amounts of food.
It is important to talk to your doctor about your eligibility and the benefits and risks associated with each type of surgery.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)