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Obesity: The Big Fat Problem – Part I

By Dr Monique Thompson

SEVERAL articles ago we talked about stress – the effects of it and how stress literally kills.

This week, we begin looking into the very serious matter of obesity, which, like stress, also kills – oftentimes slowly and expensively. There’s a lot to talk about, so we’ll get right to it.

First, being obese and being overweight, although used interchangeably at times, are not the same things. Being obese means that an individual is beyond being overweight. From a metric standpoint, the body mass index (BMI) is the tool used to determine a person’s weight status:

Underweight – a BMI of Less than 18.5

Healthy weight – BMI of 18.5 - 24

Overweight – BMI of 25 - 29

Obese – BMI 30-39

Morbidly obese – BMI > 39

BMI is a simple calculation of a person’s weight divided by height. Therefore, the taller you are, the more weight you can have before being considered obese. Unfortunately, far too many of our fellow Bahamians fall into the “obese” category, and of growing concern is the rate at which childhood obesity is increasing in the Bahamas.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) poll in 2008 revealed that 26.4 per cent of males and a whopping 42.4 per cent of females were obese; not just overweight, but obese. That’s nearly half of our adult female population. You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal? So what if people are too heavy.” Or perhaps, “What harm can come from that, Doc?”

Here’s why that’s such a big deal. Obesity is a leading contributor to diseases that are wiping us out; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, cancer and strokes. We are allowing obesity to massacre us as a people in the long run.

Worse still is that we are passing this problem on to our kids. We are setting our future generations up for health failure. Health is an important factor in society that is intimately woven into education, social services, crime and the economy.

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are simply diseases that you cannot catch from someone, nor give to anyone else. They are non-infectious. The WHO determined that cardiovascular (heart) disease, cancer, and type II diabetes accounted for 57 per cent of the non-communicable deaths among Bahamians.

With 72 per cent of the total deaths per year being caused by NCDs, 57 per cent of them are due to the diseases I just mentioned. That is beyond staggering, especially in light of the fact that over 70 per cent of these NCDs are preventable.

I have to say again, that over 70 per cent of cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes and cancers are preventable.

The question of why so many of our people are dying almost needlessly has to and will be addressed in future articles, as well as physically addressing obesity and preventing this very preventable condition.

As a nation we have to understand the factors involved in this epidemic so that each of us can do our parts in our homes, communities, etcetera, and ultimately change our behaviour, because all the knowledge and education on obesity will amount to nothing if we do not act on what we have learned.

• Dr Monique Thompson is the founder of Cornerstone Healing Institute, an integrative family medicine clinic, and can be contacted at 356-0083 with any questions/comments. Visit www.chibahamas.com for more information.

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