Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Manage your weight, reduce risks from obesity

Published:Wednesday | June 8, 2022 | 12:07 AM

A healthy weight sets the stage for bones, muscles, brain, heart and other organs to play their parts smoothly and efficiently for many years. However, excess weight, especially obesity, diminishes almost every aspect of health, from reproductive and respiratory function to memory and mood.

Obesity increases the risk of several debilitating and deadly diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It does this through a variety of pathways; some as straightforward as the mechanical stress of carrying extra pounds, and some involving complex changes in hormones and metabolism.

Obesity decreases the quality and length of life, and increases individual, national, and global healthcare costs. The good news, though, is that weight loss can reduce and remove some obesity-related risks. Losing as little as five to 10 per cent of body weight offers meaningful health benefits to people who are obese, even if they never achieve their ideal weight, and even if they only begin to lose weight later in life.

Professor Barbara McGowan, endocrinologist at Guy’s and St. Thomas Hospital in the United Kingdom, notes that globally, being overweight or obese ranks as the top fifth risk factor for death. “There are about 2.8 million adults per year that die from being overweight or obese globally. Most of the risks come from diabetes, heart disease, and an increase risk in cancers that are directly associated with being obese,” she said.

People with severe obesity are more likely to have other diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, sleep apnea and many more. Combined with obesity, these diseases may lead people to have poor health, and, in some cases, these can lead to a poor quality of life, disability, or early death.

“If you are obese and a non-smoker, women lose seven years of their life, and men lose about six years of life. But if you are obese and a smoker, women and men lose about 30 years of life. That is quite significant,” Professor McGowan said.

Obesity can impact both your physical and mental health. Obesity has been associated with several different mental health conditions among different populations. People with obesity may be more likely to have reduced well-being, negative emotions and psychopathological symptoms.

“One way to address these issues is by focusing on positive interventions, like relaxation techniques and self-strengthening skills to improve mood and reduce depression, anxiety, inner tension, restlessness, and stress,” Professor McGowan said.


Obesity is also associated with a higher risk of depression, poor self-esteem, and issues with body image.

Data from the 2016-17 Jamaica Health and Lifestyle Survey showed that one in two Jamaicans, or 54 per cent, were overweight or obese.

The data further revealed that women are more affected by overweight/obesity, with two-thirds of Jamaican women 15 years or older being overweight or obese.

The overall weight/obesity trend for adults is 34 per cent in 2000, 51.7 per cent in 2008, and 54 per cent in 2016.

Recent findings from the Global School-based Student Health Survey (2017) show that obesity is increasing for boys, and has almost doubled from 5.3 per cent to 10.3 per cent, and from 6.7 per cent to 9.9 per cent for girls.

You may be unsure of where to begin, but taking steps now to manage your health can prevent you from experiencing these complications. Losing as little as five per cent of your body weight can lower your risk for several of these health conditions.

A combination of diet and exercise can help you lose the weight slowly over time. There is no need to make drastic changes to your lifestyle. The key is to be consistent, and to continue making healthy choices.

For exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. This can include a brisk walk – just 30 minutes of walking per day will help you meet this goal. Once you have gotten the hang of it, try increasing your exercise to 300 minutes per week. Also, try to include strengthening activities, like push-ups or sit-ups, into your routine at least twice a week.


• Fill half your plate with vegetables.

• Replace unrefined grains, like white bread, pasta, and rice, with whole grains, like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.

• Eat lean sources of protein, such as lean chicken, seafood, beans, and soy.

• Cut out fried foods, fast foods, and sugary snacks.

• Avoid sugary drinks, like sodas and juice.

• Avoid alcohol.

• Ask your doctor if you are a good candidate for weight-loss surgery or medications. These treatments can help you lose weight more quickly, but still require a commitment to the above lifestyle changes.

SOURCES: Harvard Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, World Health Organization, Ministry of Health and Wellness.