The World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 as obesity. They consider a BMI over 25 as being overweight. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), roughly 3 out of every 4 adults over age 20 are obese or overweight.
Obesity has three classifications:
- Class 1 is a BMI between 30 and less than 35 kg/m²
- Class 2 is a BMI between 35 and less than 40 kg/m²
- Class 3 is a BMI of 40 kg/m² or higher and is considered to be severe obesity
Obesity does not always have to do with weight, as a person can have a “normal” weight but a higher body fat percentage. That can create similar health risks to a person with a higher BMI. Body fat around the waist is another factor, with concerns for people assigned female at birth with a waist size over 35 inches. A waist circumference over 40 inches is concerning for people assigned male at birth.
Is It a Disease or Risk Factor?
Obesity is a disease and a risk factor for many other diseases. Its effects on the body can interfere with health, physical abilities, and performance in all areas of life.
Being overweight has a direct impact on hormone production, creating metabolic changes that can further the accumulation of fat. As fat storage levels increase, further damage is done to the body’s hormonal balance. The vicious cycle is never-ending, as fat cells become enlarged and secrete enzymes that interfere with hormone production.
The enzyme aromatase from belly fat seeks free testosterone and converts it to estradiol (estrogen). Estradiol lowers testosterone levels to create estrogen dominance which tells the body to increase fat stores. Cortisol (stress hormone) production increases, inhibiting testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) production. Because testosterone and HGH directly regulate the metabolic process, metabolism slows down, and rather than converting food into energy, the body stores additional fat.
HGH and testosterone have anti-inflammatory actions on the body. Low hormone levels lead to increased inflammation, at the heart of many health issues. Chronic inflammation interferes with insulin sensitivity and the usage of blood glucose by the body’s tissues. Various changes occur, including increases in cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugar. These factors create a condition called metabolic syndrome which can increase many health risks.
- What factors increase the risk of obesity?
Various contributing factors can increase the risk of becoming overweight and developing obesity, including:
- Family habits and diet
- Unhealthy dietary choices
- Liquid calories – alcohol and sugary or high-calorie beverages
- Sedentary lifestyle/inactivity
- Economic factors
- Certain medications and diseases
- Age (including hormonal decline that occurs with aging)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Not enough sleep
- Quitting smoking
- What are some of the leading risks associated with obesity?
Obesity increases blood sugar levels, leading to a higher type 2 diabetes risk. Approximately 4 out of every 5 people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to eye problems, cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, stroke, kidney disease, and other significant health issues.
Most commonly known as high blood pressure, hypertension occurs when blood flow through the blood vessels proceeds at a greater than normal force. As blood pressure levels increase, so do heart attack and stroke risks. Having obesity and diabetes increases the risk of developing hypertension. High blood pressure damages blood vessels, strains the heart, and increases stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and death risks.
- Erectile dysfunction
Hormone changes are a leading cause of obesity, as testosterone and HGH deficiency can interfere with metabolism. Reduced metabolism can lead to increased weight gain and further hormonal imbalance. The result is low energy, fatigue, muscle weakness, blocked arteries, reduced nitric oxide production, and erectile dysfunction. Good blood flow is vital for achieving and sustaining a healthy erection. Luckily, HGH for ED is highly recommended by hormone professionals for successful treatment. HGH therapy improves metabolism to decrease fat mass and increase lean body mass.
As blood pressure, LDL, and total cholesterol levels increase, the risk of developing heart disease and stroke advances. A stroke occurs when a blocked or burst blood vessel cuts the blood supply to the brain. Strokes can damage crucial brain tissue, interfering with speech and movement.
- High levels of cholesterol
Lipids are fats that fall into three categories – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Of the three, only HDL is better when its levels are higher as it sweeps excess LDL cholesterol from the blood vessels. LDL cholesterol can block the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Difficulty with physical functioning
Excess body fat can interfere with many areas of physical functioning, crowding the internal organs and causing back pain. Painful joints can lead to a reduced range of motion. The extra weight can put pressure on the heart and lungs, making it hard to engage in physical activity.
Because obesity interferes with hormonal balance, increased stress and cortisol levels can make getting enough sleep at night challenging. That can lead to fatigue during the day. Many people report lower achievements at work due to decreased productivity, lack of focus, fatigue, or social stigmas of being overweight.
The more weight you carry on your frame, the greater the pressure on your bones, joints, and cartilage. Obesity or being overweight can reduce motion and increase swelling, pain, and osteoarthritis risk.
- Sleep apnea
The more weight you gain, the greater the risk of developing sleep apnea, a condition that causes irregular breathing during sleep. Categorized by short periods of breathing cessation, sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Certain cancers, particularly breast (post-menopause), colon, esophagus, endometrium, and esophagus, have links to obesity. BMI increases create higher risks of death from cancer.
Obesity and being overweight can increase the risk of depression and other mental health problems, reducing overall quality of life. Losing even a small amount of body fat (as little as 5 to 10 percent of weight) can improve many of the health risks mentioned above, including cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, blood flow, osteoarthritis, and blood pressure.
- What are the ways of losing weight?
- Get more active
Increasing activity is a vital step in losing weight. You have to burn more calories to achieve weight loss. Walking for 30 minutes daily, five days a week, can provide significant benefits. Aerobic exercises such as dancing, walking, running, swimming, and bicycling are the best ways to increase caloric burn. Weight or resistance training will help increase lean muscle mass, and since lean muscle burns more calories than fat, lifting weights can improve overall results.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Enhancing your diet with colorful fruits and vegetables gives your body more fiber and less fat. Some vegetables fill you up without adding calories, such as celery, so you consume fewer calories.
- Drink plenty of water
Water not only fills you up, but it also flushes away fat. Drink half your weight in ounces each day.
- Eat high-fiber foods
Fiber fills you up, so turning to whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils), berries, broccoli, apples, and nuts can help you reduce calories and lose weight.
- Do not stock junk food
Out of sight, out of mind applies here. If you have junk food at home, you will eat it. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods to help you lose weight.
- Consult a doctor and dietologist
If you cannot seem to lose weight on your own, get outside help from a doctor or dietologist. Behavioral therapy, medications (appetite suppressants), and personalized diet plans may help you achieve your goals.
Obesity is a national epidemic, taking a toll on health care and increasing medical costs. Losing weight, even a small amount, can have a dramatic and beneficial effect on your health and well-being. Checking your hormone levels, improving your activity, and creating healthy lifestyle habits and dietary choices can make a significant difference in your life.