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Obesity and co-morbidities

Publish date: 07/03/2014

obesity-and-coObesity Co-Morbidities: When is overweight unhealthy and what can it mean for our health?

Many of us carry a bit more weight than we should. But when do those extra pounds really become a health problem?

Doctors agree that obesity is unhealthy. It increases the risk of other diseases, such as diabetes and some types of cancer, and ups your risk of having a heart attack, a stroke or joint problems.

These risks are incremental – they increase the more overweight you are.

One way to assess if your weight is becoming risky is to look at a measurement called body mass index or BMI.

What’s your score?

BMI is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and dividing it by your height in metres squared. There are plenty of online tools which will do the job for you. Basically, your BMI score shows whether your weight is about right for your height.

For good health, doctors say you should aim for a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9.
Anything below this score is too thin, and anything above it is too fat, although it will depend slightly on your ethnicity and your general physical frame.

A bodybuilder with lots of muscles will obviously be slightly heavier. If you are of African, Caribbean or Asian descent then you should aim for a BMI of 18.5 to 23 because your risks of obesity-related diseases are slightly greater than for the wider population.

A real danger zone is if you go from being overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) to obese (BMI of 30 or more).

The risks

According to Public Health England, compared with a healthy weight man, an obese man is:

An obese woman is:

  • Almost 13 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • More than four times more likely to develop high blood pressure
  • More than three times more likely to have a heart attack.

If you are obese you also increase your risk of angina, gall bladder disease, liver disease, ovarian cancer, osteoarthritis and stroke.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, currently in the UK around a quarter of men and women are obese.

By 2050, experts from Public Health England predict this will double, meaning around half of all adults will be obese.

If you don’t want to be one of these people, what should you do?

How to stay slim

If you are already overweight then it is important to act now.

Losing even a little excess weight has health benefits.

Even if you are a healthy weight, don’t be complacent. It’s important to keep on track and stay slim for good health.

According to the NHS the key is to make small, long-lasting changes to your lifestyle. If you are overweight or obese, changing your lifestyle so that you eat fewer calories can help you to become a healthier weight. Combining these changes with increased physical activity is the best approach.

GP Dr Emmajane Down says: “Motivation is the key to sticking to a healthy diet and exercise regime. You have to want to lose weight, make the change and potentially save your life. No one else can do it for you.”

Here’s how.

Top tips

  • Eat well – we all like to indulge from time to time but be careful not to eat foods high in sugar and fat all the time because this will pile the weight on. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and some lean meat, fish or other sources of protein such as nuts or soya.
  • Watch the booze – alcohol is empty calories and drinking too much will cause weight gain and, as our online shapeshifter tool shows, may also bring its own health problems.
  • Get moving – do regular exercise. According to the NHS, you should aim to start gradually and then build on it, eventually aiming for 30 minutes, five times a week.
  • Get support ‒ there is some evidence that people who join a weight loss group are more likely to be successful in losing weight than those who don’t, says Dr Emmajane Down. There are also treatments available on the NHS that may help. Talk to your GP about what might work for you.


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