Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measure of obesity. BMI takes into account body weight, height, and age. Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated as follows: BMI = weight (kg) / height (m)^2. An individual with a BMI equal to and above 30 kg/sqm would be called obese. Six hundred fifty million people have a BMI equal to and above 30 kg/square meter (according to WHO estimates). BMI is, though, an inaccurate measure. For instance, people with high muscle mass may not be obese but will have a high BMI. Another index for measuring obesity is – the Ponderous index. All of these indices are indicative.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the highest levels of obesity are found in countries in the Pacific islands, the Middle East, and North Africa. Some countries with the highest levels of obesity include Nauru, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, and Niue. In these countries, over 60% of the adult population has a BMI greater than 30, which is the definition of obesity.
In terms of continents, North America has the highest average levels of obesity, with over 30% of the population classified as obese. Europe and Oceania also have high rates of obesity, while Asia and Africa have lower rates.
It’s worth noting that the global obesity epidemic is a growing problem, with rates increasing in many countries. Factors contributing to this increase include unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, urbanization, and food environments promoting overconsumption of high-calorie foods.
Being overweight or obese (having a high Body Mass Index, or BMI) is associated with several health risks, including:
- Cardiovascular disease: high BMI increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes: excess weight can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Some cancers: high BMI is linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, and kidney cancer.
- Metabolic syndrome: a group of conditions, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Osteoarthritis: excess weight can strain joints, especially the hips, and knees, leading to the development of osteoarthritis.
- Sleep apnea: being overweight can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, a condition in which a person briefly stops breathing during sleep.
- Liver disease: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excess fat accumulates in the liver, leading to inflammation and, in severe cases, liver damage.
Being overweight and obesity are significantly associated with several lifestyle diseases outlined above. Intentional weight loss reduces the risk of overweight people developing diabetes.
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are preventable and require a continuing effort to incorporate a balanced diet and physical activity into the lifestyle. These changes aim to achieve healthy weight loss. (Mokdad et al., 2003). Cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are complex diseases triggered by various factors. Therefore let us not jump to conclusions and get ourselves worried sick if we have a BMI.
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