Healthy living * Weight loss

Are you obese?

Zone default image Health problems linked to obesity

NHS officials reportedly considered using a helicopter to airlift the UK's heaviest man from his home in Ipswich to a specialist obesity unit at St. Richards Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

Weighing 70 stone, 48 year old Paul Mason is now unable to leave his home. Suffolk NHS Trust have now decided to use a bariatric ambulance instead.

As someone who is morbidly obese, Mr. Mason may be an extreme example. But the health problems he is facing are similar to the 20% of women and 25% of men in the UK who are currently obese. With 40% of the population also overweight, it's likely these figures will continue rising.

Being obese not only reduces the quality of someone's life, but increases their risk of a number of serious health conditions. The cost to the NHS in treating these is likely to be very high.

Health problems linked to obesity

People who are obese are at risk of a range of health problems related to their weight, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain cancers
  • Arthritis
  • Gallstones
  • Snoring and sleep apnoea

Obesity is second only to smoking as a risk factor for some types of cancer. Women who are obese are also more likely to have complications during and after their pregnancy.

A recent study found that people who are obese were likely have their life expectancy shortened by 10 years, and more in those who are severely obese.

How do you know if you're obese?

A useful way to find out if you are a healthy weight in relation to your height is to calculate your Body Mass Index.

To do this, you divide your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height squared in metres.

Body Mass Index Range:

  • Underweight - less than 20
  • Normal - 20 - 25
  • Overweight - 25 - 30
  • Obese - 30 - 35
  • Severely obese - above 40

Waist measurement

Research has shown that people who carry extra fat around their waist are more at risk of obesity related health problems that those who carry it on their hips and thighs.

Generally, men with a waist circumference of 94cm (37") and women who measure 80cm (32") have a higher risk of obesity-related disease.

Men measuring 102cm (40") and women 88cm (35") around the waist, have an even higher risk.

What you can do about it

It is never too late to make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce your weight to a healthy level. Your GP should be your first port of call. They can give you the support and advice you need to get started.

If you are severely obese you may also be eligible for surgery. This has to be discussed with your GP.

This article was published on Tue 20 October 2009

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