Recent evidence suggests that obesity is not limited to UK and US but is also progressively increasing across Europe and South Asia. In England, almost 1 in 2 women is either in the obese or overweight category. The likelihood of becoming overweight increases with age. Only a quarter of 16 to 24 years is in this group but more than two thirds of 55 to 64 year olds are obese. Childhood obesity is increasing too and nearly 1 in 8, 8 year olds and 1 in 6, 7 year olds have a problem with weight now a days.
Certain types of obesity are easier to manage than others. It is classified by the size, number and regional distribution of fat cells in the body. Generally the fat cells increase in number during the first year of life, adolescence and in the last trimester of pregnancy. Exposure to more than the required amount of food at these times increases the number of fat cells in the body. As the amount of fat stored per cell increases, the cells gradually become larger. Generally in adult life only the fat cells get larger but with excessive food intake both their number and size may increase. Generally it is easier to shrink the fat cells but not as easy to get rid of the excess number of cells.
What are general health risks?
The pattern of fat distribution also is important. When the fat distribution is mainly around the abdominal area (central obesity or apple shape), your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer of the womb, high blood pressure, diseases of the blood vessels, gall bladder, arthritis, cancer and respiratory problems increases.
Waist circumference correlates with health risk. Measuring simply when the waist is more than 85 cms, the health risks are increased.
Waist-to-Hip ratio is another useful measure. You may calculate this using a tape measure as follows :
- Measure your girth at you navel in a relaxed, standing position without changing the shape of your stomach.
- Measure your girth over the most prominent part of your buttocks.
- Divide your girth at the navel with your girth at your buttocks.
The answer should be less than 0.80 for women and 0.95 for men. If it is higher, the long term health risks are increased and you need to loose weight.
How do we assess?
We measure weight in relation to height with a measure called ‘body mass index’ or BMI for short. You would have noted that our clinic nurses measures your weight on the scales and your height on wall mounted ruler and then look at a chart.
Crudely the BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. The result is divided by your height in meters again. The answer is usually between 18-40 except in extreme cases of being over or underweight.
The results are interpreted as shown in the table below.
Less than 20 underweight
20 – 24.9 Normal
25 – 29.9 Overweight
30 – 34.9 Obese (Grade 1)
35 – 40 Obese (Grade 2)
Above 40 Obese (Grade 3)