Obesity: Why we should care

By Caroline Jouhourian, MD and Kathleen Viveiros, MD, Tufts Medical Center

 

The trend in rising body weight is an important public health problem globally. In the United States, more than 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese. Excess of body fat for your height is measured through the “body mass index” or BMI. Knowing your BMI is key. BMI plus your family history helps determine your risk for certain diseases.

Normal body weight is a BMI between 18 and 25, overweight is a BMI 25 to 29.9 and obesity is defined as a BMI more than 30 kilograms per square meter. There are ethnic differences in BMI — for Asians, the cutoffs are lower!

In Asians, overweight is defined by a BMI more than 23 and obesity is a BMI more than 25 (not 30). Where a person carries excess weight is important. Centrally distributed body fat (around the belly) leads to more risk of health problems than fat on the hips and thighs.

 

How to prevent obesity: Diet and exercise

Your diet is a key way to affect body fat and your risk for being overweight or obese. Fast food, sugary drinks and high-fat diets contribute to obesity. Eating fewer calories has been shown to be effective in weight loss.

快餐吃多會導致身體肥胖。(圖片來自Flickr用戶SteFou!。) Fast food and poor diet results in weight gain. (Image courtesy of Flickr user SteFou!.)

Fast food and poor diet results in weight gain. (Image courtesy of Flickr user SteFou!.)

With the increased use of electronics, people have a more sedentary life. We often sit in front of computers and TVs rather than doing physical activities. We use cars rather than walk or ride bikes. Exercise of any kind (walking, gardening and more) provides health benefits regardless of weight. Unlike diet, exercise helps your heart’s pumping abilities thus preventing heart problems. Your heart is a muscle that needs strengthening!

 

Liver disease and obesity

Most people associate heart disease with obesity, but fatty liver disease is also a known complication. Did you know that fatty liver disease is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the Western world? Abnormal liver tests are a way to detect damage. Fat deposits in the liver can cause irritation and lead to scarring which can lead to liver failure.

Diabetes and high cholesterol can also predispose you to fatty liver. You can drop your risk for developing fatty liver disease by cardiovascular exercise, weight loss and blood sugar control if you are a diabetic, and decreasing your consumption of fatty meals such as fast food

Obesity is a common, growing medical problem. The key to preventing diseases due to obesity is to lead a healthier lifestyle: exercise and eat healthy!

Source: Bray, GA and Bellanger T. Epidemiology, Trends, and Morbidities of Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome. Endocrine, vol. 29, no. 1, 109–117, February 2006.

 

Kathleen Viveiros is a liver doctor at Tufts Medical Center who specializes in liver diseases such as fatty liver, autoimmune liver disease and viral hepatitis. Her contact information is (617) 636-5883 and email is kviveiros@tuftsmedicalcenter.org. Caroline Jouhourian is a clinical fellow in the division of gastroenterology/hepatology at Tufts MC.

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