Supersized – obesity and health

belly-2473_1280Aussies are a competitive bunch. We enjoy winning, particularly if involves beating the Brits or the US. We are working our way towards another win. Although this is not something to be proud of, our winners probably won’t wind up on postage stamps. Australians are literally growing faster than anywhere else in the world – obesity is climbing faster here than anywhere else! *golf clap* 29% of Aussies are now obese – that’s a BMI over 30. Just to be clear, that’s big. Real big.

Overweight and obesity is a huge public health problem – it is now not just limited to developed nations like ours. Developing nations are now starting to have major problems with obesity. It is in fact, more of a problem than being underweight, according to the World Health Organisation. Globally, for diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer, being obese is responsible for up to 40% of these cases. That’s huge! No pun intended. I think the scariest part of the global obesity epidemic is that is now a huge problem in children. This means our kids are now at risk for life-shortening diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that not only shorten your life span but lead to a really poor quality of life.

Our current health care systems are not really great at prevention and management of chronic conditions like obesity. In part related to resource limitations like time and money. Obesity is a very tricky problem to manage and we need a real multi-pronged approach. A person may want to lose weight and be motivated to do so, but if you surround them with nowhere to exercise, poor food choices and no social support, then they’re really going to struggle. Health care systems and societies world-wide have to implement changes such as clinics with people like dietitians, psychologists and doctors to guide people to weight loss. Cities need to provide parks and other areas where exercise can take place. Providing healthy food choices by ensuring supplies of fruit and veg for example, rather than the golden arches, to ensure healthy eating.

Obesity is not going to go away easily. Anyone who has a few pounds to shift knows it’s really hard work. Imagine if you had more than just a few pounds plus you had arthritis in your knees, diabetes and are chronically unfit. Options like bariatric surgery (gastric band, sleeve gastrectomies) are being used to successfully in some cases, lose weight and either improve or abolish things like diabetes. But as good as this is, it doesn’t address all of these other issues like changing your diet and exercising more. An operation is a very extreme solution to a problem. But obesity is, let’s face it, deadly and the big guns are needed.

Even a weigh loss of 5% of body weight in an overweight or obese person is thought to improve things like blood pressure and blood sugar. It’s a small number but I don’t doubt it’s a pretty big ask for some people. But I think that’s how we need to start it – small. Baby steps to address all of the problems that lead to obesity. Although this a problem with many contributors, we can all do something ourselves. Small changes in our exercise and dietary habits are a fantastic start that will lead to better health and then more changes and so on.

Can we please just keep letting the Yanks win this one? Please?

http://www.aihw.gov.au/body-weight/

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