Rising Obesity Rates- A widespread disease of these generation

Subarna Debbarma (BPT, DNHE)

In a recent study, it has been revealed that the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults has risen steadily, reaching 42.4% in 2018, and continuing its ascent during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This marks obesity as the most widespread disease of these generation, with significant implications for public health.

Image Credit to: Risk & Insurance

In this article, I will tell you:

1. What is obesity?

2. How to measure obesity?

3. Causes of obesity.

4. Obesity effects on health and how to prevent obesity?

Understanding Obesity: A Complex Interplay

Obesity is a disease characterized by the brain, instructing your body on how much to eat and store. A particular part of the brain responsible for weight regulation is called the hypothalamus, receiving signals and guiding your body on what to do and how to store.

If you've struggled with your weight and wondered why you do compared to your mom, dad, spouse, or children, it's about how your brain signals and how that differs from someone else.

How do we measure this disease of obesity?

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is commonly used to measure obesity. There are three classes: mild, moderate, and severe. A BMI of 30 to 34.9 classifies someone as having mild obesity, 35 to 39.9 indicates moderate obesity, and those with BMIs greater than or equal to 40 have the disease of severe obesity. I mentioned earlier that BMI is an indirect measure, so it's not the end-all, be-all. 

Click here to measure your BMI


The BMI charts and tables were developed based on metropolitan life insurance tables from the 1930s, excluding racial and ethnic minorities, for example. It's essential to use BMI with a grain of salt. In addition to BMI, we might measure waist circumference, looking at this differently based on gender. For females, we measure waist circumference at the umbilicus, or belly button, using a tape measure. If you are 35 inches or less, you're in a healthy zone. For men, the same area is measured at the belly button and around their circumference, with the goal of having a waist circumference of 40 inches or less.

What causes obesity?

It's not just about how much you eat and how much you exercise. For many years, there has been an idea and myth that it's all about calories in and calories out. I'm here to dispel that myth today. It's complex, with various factors playing a role in how the body regulates weight. Some contributors to obesity include disordered eating, age-related changes, genetic and epigenetic factors, smoking cessation, sleep deficits, the gut microbiota, physical disabilities, and maternal health, among others.

Obesity effects on health 

Obesity has profound effects on health, increasing the risk of numerous chronic conditions and compromising overall well-being. It significantly elevates the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension. Obesity is also associated with respiratory issues, such as sleep apnea and asthma, impacting the quality of sleep and daily functioning. The excess weight places strain on joints, contributing to musculoskeletal problems and mobility issues.

Furthermore, obesity is linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast, colon, and pancreatic cancers. Mental health is not spared, as obesity correlates with higher rates of depression and anxiety. These health effects create a substantial burden on healthcare systems and individual lives, emphasizing the critical importance of effective obesity prevention and management strategies for overall public health.

How to prevent obesity?

Obesity prevention necessitates a multifaceted approach encompassing lifestyle modifications, education, and systemic changes. Promoting regular physical activity and a balanced diet is paramount, emphasizing the significance of incorporating healthier choices into daily routines. Educational initiatives that raise awareness about nutrition, portion control, and the long-term health consequences of obesity are crucial, empowering individuals to make informed decisions. 

Additionally, addressing socioeconomic disparities by improving access to affordable, nutritious food in underserved communities and creating safe spaces for physical activity is vital. Policy interventions, such as regulating food marketing and incentivizing healthier options, play a pivotal role in shaping environments conducive to weight management. Healthcare providers contribute by emphasizing preventative measures, conducting regular screenings, and offering guidance on lifestyle changes. 

A holistic, community-driven approach that involves collaboration between individuals, families, educators, policymakers, and healthcare professionals is essential for effective obesity prevention, fostering a collective commitment to a healthier society.

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