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By Dr T.W Ngwenya Changamire
Obesity is a chronic health condition where one has excessive fat accumulation. The root causes of obesity are multifactorial. Often society including health practitioners look at overweight and obese individuals and conclude that they are being lazy, they overeater and they are people who make wrong lifestyle choice.
Sometimes in our context being overweight is sometimes seen to be a sign of financial success.
Obesity may be a result of a combination of factors including mental disorders, genetic predisposition, lack of health care access, poverty and traumatic life events.
The South African Demographic and Health Survey of 2016 found that about 50% of adults are overweight and obese with more women being overweight and obese. Almost 70% of women in total are overweight and obese. This is the highest rate in Africa. 39.2% of women are obese compared to 10.2% of men. 24.8% women are overweight compared to 20.1% of men.
In Zimbabwe the Demographic and Health Survey of 2015 also found that more women were obese and overweight. An estimated total of 24% of adults were overweight and obese. 22.3% of women are overweight compared to 9.7% in men and 12.6 % of women are obese and only 2.3% of men were found to be obese.
Obesity does not only bring cosmetic concerns. Obesity increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes and other conditions like diabetes and certain cancers. Obesity also increases your chances of infertility, osteoarthritis and severe covid-19 related symptoms.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measurement of obesity. It takes into account height and weight of the individual. A person is classified as overweight if their BMI is greater than 30.
A person may develop obesity due to lifestyle choices, poor dietary choices, inactivity but it is also important to realise other drivers like genetics and mental ill-health. Obesity is reversible.
Losing weight will also decrease the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and cancers also decreases.
Obesity and Diabetes
Diabetes has become an epidemic and urgent efforts have to be taken to halt the progression of it. Type 2 diabetes is responsible for the majority of cases of diabetes.
Obesity and physical activity are the largest role players in development of Type 2 diabetes.
Obesity rates are increasing exponentially worldwide and this is partly due to lack of knowledge of dietary habits and lifestyle habits that lead to obesity.
More women are affected with type 2 diabetes compared to men globally and as we indicated earlier more women are affected by obesity than men.
Centre for disease control in 2011 reported that Obese women are 28 times more likely to develop diabetes when compared to women of normal weight.
Obesity particularly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Excess fat in the body causes metabolic changes to occur in the body.
These changes lead to failure of your body cells to respond insulin. This is an insulin-resistant state which leads to development of type 2 diabetes.
Just a quick recap on what Diabetes is. Diabetes is a metabolic condition where your body fails to regulate blood sugar levels.
It results from either a deficiency of insulin or no response to insulin. This will lead to a chronic presence of circulating high blood sugar. If this persists it may result in diabetes.
Diabetes can affect different parts of the body negatively and it can make you susceptible to certain infection and diseases.
Diabetes can affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves and even the skin. If Diabetes is left uncontrolled or untreated it can also lead to life threatening conditions.
In Africa diabetes has become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. It is estimated that 15.9 million people are living with Diabetes in Africa. It is worrying even more that Africa also has the greatest proportion of undiagnosed Diabetics; it is estimated that 60% of adults living with Diabetes do not know that they are Diabetic. (IDF,2019).
What is driving this epidemic?
Urbanisation, unhealthy lifestyle choices and inactivity are the main drivers of the diabetes epidemic.
These drivers increase the risk of obesity!
Obesity in turn increases the risk of diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Urbanisation results in increased access to readily made processed foods and junk foods, it also leads to physical inactivity because people use transport to travel between places, less open spaces for physical activities at home and sedentary jobs
Marketing: exposure to mass media and marketing of unhealthy food options
Unhealthy lifestyle choices and dietary choices. We should strive for a higher consumption of fruit, vegetable, and whole grain consumption and decrease intake of processed meat, refined carbohydrates, sugary foods.
Mental health: people with mental disorders are 2 to 3 times more likely to become obese. This is because they are more likely to have poor food choices, to be less active and some of the drugs used to treat certain mental conditions may lead to weight gain
How do we begin to tackle this epidemic?
Raising awareness on the multiple root causes of obesity by conducting health education sessions on the cause and the consequences of obesity, this will lead to better food choices and lifestyle choices.
Health practitioners need to be motivated to provide more screening services and health promotion activities in the community, in workplaces and in schools.
People need to improve on their health seeking behaviour and go for screening for BMI, Diabetes and other health conditions and to not only present to the Doctor when they are unwell.
Let us all come together in the fight against obesity, diabetes and other related diseases.
Contact All In 4 Health – By Dr TW Ngwenya Changamire – for General Medical Consultation, health screening, medical check-up, health education and promotion. The Glen Marais Shopping Centre, 57 Veld Street, Glen Marais, Kempton park 1619
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