What is obesity?
Obesity is a condition defined by the excessive storing of body fat, a fact which leads to a significant gain in weight. Common medical practice uses the body mass index (BMI) to establish the severity of each case of obesity. The BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The most extensively used means for establishing the stage of one’s obesity is the calculation of the BMI. A BMI value exceeding the 30 marker denotes that the subject in cause is in fact obese, and a BMI value above 40 signals the presence of morbid obesity.
Obesity has become a persisting health issue in several developed countries and regions still in development. The ratio of the population suffering from this condition puts Romania in a leading European position. An alarming 73% of the country’s adult population suffers from some type of obesity, making the phenomenon a true epidemic.
The causes of morbid obesity
Obesity’s aetiology identifies the following factors, which predispose an individual to this particular health condition:
- A heightened calorie intake - The ratio of consumed foods is higher than the burning capability of the organism.
- Eating disorders - These include, but are not limited to nocturnal sleep-related eating disorders (NS-RED) and bulimia nervosa. The first syndrome enumerated consists of morning anorexia, insomnia and evening hyperphagia (EH). The second ailment consists of recurring episodes of food consumption followed by an excessive compensating behaviour such as the use of diuretics or self-induced heaving.
- Genetic factors - Research conducted in this area as well as a multitude of studies have identified that several genes are involved in the onset of obesity. Hereditary factors play a significant part in the onset of obesity. More exactly they have an important role in the susceptibility shown toward the disease.
- Environmental and behavioral factors - These are best summated by the contemporary fast-paced lifestyle, characterized by unbalanced eating habits, which in turn may lead to weight gain. Leading a sedentary way of life denotes the existence of behavioral factors which favor the onset of obesity, and of a diminished rate of calorie-burning. This undoubtedly leads to the formation or worsening of a state of energy imbalance.
- Psychological factors - persons who show signs of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, stress, or low self-esteem are acutely prone to developing morbid obesity.
- Medical disorders - hormonal disorders, thyroid ailments, syndromes of hypothalamic dysfunction may all lead to the onset of morbid obesity.
- Drug use - drugs which may predispose patients to obesity include but are not limited to oral contraceptives, antidepressants, anti-epileptics, steroids, phenothiazines, high blood pressure medicine. These pharmaceutical substances effect the appetite of the user, so they may favor excessive calorie intake, which in turn leads to the onset of obesity.
Complications of morbid obesity
- Diabetes - persons who suffer from morbid obesity develop a resistance to insulin, a hormone administered to regulate blood sugar levels. In time the glicemic imbalance may lead to the appearance of certain severe complications.
- Cardiac affections - Excess fat in the body may alter the proper functioning capacity of the heart and may lower peripheral resistance. As a direct result of this patients may develop hypertension, acute strokes, acute myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, venous insufficiency, thrombosis and the like.
- Respiratory diseases - Gaining excess body fat around the area of the head and especially the throat may lead to partially obstructing the airways. Such respiratory issues appear mainly at night during sleep.
- Heartburns - Due to abdominal fat, stomach acids reach the esophagus, giving it a burning sensation.
- Depression - People with weight issues may be discriminated at their workplace, may be disapproved by their families and friends, or may encounter remarks which lower self-esteem. These in turn lead to states of anxiety and depression.
- Osteoarthritis - This ailment consists of the destruction of cartilage, which protects the surface of the joints. This leads to bones coming into direct contact with each other, which in time will lead to their deterioration. People who suffer from morbid obesity show signs of intense pain especially in the area of the knees, the spinal chord and hips.
- Infertility - Obesity may cause hormonal changes, that may lead to infertility both in the case of men and especially in that of women.
- Urinary incontinence - involuntary loss of urine is due to the growing size of the abdomen and the relaxation of the pelvic muscles.
- Sexual dysfunctions - There are several cases in which impotence and erectile dysfunction appears as a result of obesity, and may lead to considerable negative effects on male sexual performance. In the case of women obesity causes several gynecological issues such as irregular menstrual cycle and hormonal imbalance.
- Incremental rise of cancer occurrence - Obesity is associated with a high risk of developing breast cancer, endometrial cancer, cancer of the esophagus, gastric cancer and renal cancer.
- Brain maladies - Metabolic alterations associated with obesity may affect brain function and may lead to the onset of dementia. These modifications consist for example of high blood sugar and cholesterol.