A complete guide on obesity in women, causes, complications and way forward

Obesity can occur at any age right from childhood to teens to adulthood and senior citizens. Dr Paula Goel, Consultant Pediatrician, Adolescent Physician and the Founder of Fayth Clinic sheds light on the issue, causes and way forward

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, November 10, 2022, 06:48 PM IST
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Representational | Freepik

Obesity / weight gain, is a horrific word to the ears of most women?  In today’s modern world where rights are very important, it is socially unacceptable to call anyone obese or overweight as it hurts sentiments and may reflect body shaming. However, in the larger context, we have to understand that obesity is a disease. In 1998, WHO defined Obesity as a disease? And just like any other disease , we need to treat it as a disease .Obesity , if left untreated can cause multiple complications affecting all systems of the body and may even lead to death.

Obesity can occur at any age right from childhood to teens to adulthood and senior citizens. The complications remain more or less the same in all age groups.

Some of the common causes are:

  • Eating large of processed or fast food which is high in fat and sugar

  • Drinking too much alcohol as it contains a lot of calories

  • Eating out regularly or eating larger portion sizes than required

  • Having a large number of sugary drinks

  • Comfort eating for those who have low self-esteem or feel depressed , making them feel better

  • Hormonal fluctuations especially of estrogen, progesterone and DHEAS

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Hypothyroid

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • PCOS

  • Depression

  • Lack of sleep or difficulty in falling asleep or remaining asleep. Hormone imbalances caused by poor sleep might influence your appetite and dietary preferences. Lack of sleep can have an impact on how much exercise or physical activity you get throughout the day.

  • Excessive use of gadgets affects sleep patterns. Blue light from the gadget suppresses melatonin (sleep hormone) thus affecting sleep.

  • Genetics or family history of obesity-There are many genes that work together to gain weight. Your environment also affects your genes. When you are a baby or young child, your parents or caregivers control your eating and physical activity. This family background can influence your weight as an adult.

  • Certain medications for diabetes , epilepsy , antidepressants, Corticosteroid

  • A large number of women gain weight post pregnancy and in the postmenopausal period.

Water retention may occur premenstrual period  leading to weight gain

  • Metabolism plays a very role and may result in weight gain. Metabolism may change throughout her life, such as with the hormonal changes that happen during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

  • Age may slow down metabolism leading to weight gain and obesity. With age , there is loss of muscle leading to fat deposition ad weight gain

  • Trauma -Women who experience serious, negative events during childhood, such as abuse or a parent with a problem with alcohol or drugs, are more likely to have obesity as adults.

  • Which don't have sidewalks or parks may not be safe to walk around outside in other neighborhoods. Some places where people live have so much traffic that it may be difficult for people with disabilities to get around outside

  • Lack of food options - Some people live near many fast-food restaurants but no grocery stores. 

  • Air pollution, including secondhand smoke, is linked to obesity. Some researchers think that chemicals from pollution in the food we eat can lead to obesity. Sometimes living close to highways or other busy roads may increase your chances of obesity.

Complications of obesity: Physical & emotional

 Physical –

  • Heart problems – high blood pressure , high lipids , atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels ) and heart attacks

  • Type 2 diabetes and complications of diabetes

  • Brain Stroke and paralysis

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea leading to sudden cessation of breathing causing sudden death

  • Fungal infections on body

  • Hair loss , loss of skin tone

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Respiratory – breathing problems , pneumonias

  • Infertility in both men and women

  • PCOS in women

  • Joint pains – knee joints , ankle joints , lower back aches , posture problems

  • Peripheral neuropathy as nerves are affected leading to tingling sensation on palms of hands  & soles of feet 

  • Vision problems

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Emotional

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Low self esteem

  • Low self confidence

  • Poor interpersonal relationships

  • Social isolation

  • Discrimination at work and career  

Way forward

  • It is imperative to understand that obesity is a diseases and needs to be treated.

  • Body mass index (BMI) to be calculated to find out the extent of obesity and then devise the treatment protocol.

  • Investigations are necessary to identify the cause of obesity and provide the necessary treatment.

  • Lifestyle modification with respect to nutrition, physical activity, sleep, alcohol intake, gadget use and counseling.

  • Support from family, friends and work environment goes a long way to rehabilitate individuals with obesity. 

  • Those individuals whose BMI is above 40 (morbid obesity) and who have undergone lifestyle modifications for at least 6-8 months, without any benefit are candidates for undergoing bariatric surgery.

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