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Obesity is a significant health issue. Extreme overweight is a physical condition which can sometimes precipitate severe physical complaints as a result. To lose weight essentially involves changing to a healthy diet and becoming more active. So it is important to follow weight-loss advice to achieve a healthy weight. It may also make sense to try prescription medication. Research shows that medication approved for long-term obesity treatment, when used as an adjunct to lifestyle intervention, lead to greater mean weight loss compared to lifestyle changes alone.

Medically reviewed by Prof. Dr. O. Patho on December 17, 2018


  • Information

    What does obesity mean?

    We describe being seriously overweight as having too much excess fat stored in the body. The body’s natural balance is disturbed, and as the amount of excess weight increases, health complaints begin to develop.

    Obesity occurs when the amount of energy someone generates via food and drink is higher than the amount the body consumes.

    What are the symptoms of being overweight?

    Obesity has major consequences for the body and can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions. People who are overweight often have health issues that may increase their risk for cardiovascular disease.

    Chest pains, shortness of breath, and numbness in the extremities are important warning signals that should never be ignored.

    Furthermore, the increased pressure put on the body when carrying extra weight can cause joint complaints. Symptoms of rapid, stabbing pains in the knee, are of frequent occurrence.

    Sleep apnoea, which results in severe fatigue, is another symptom. Serious overweight can cause menstrual problems too, as well as incontinence and reduced fertility.

    What are the possible consequences?

    Being overweight can have major consequences for the body. But obesity also means you are more prone to develop certain diseases and disorders, including:

    • Coronary heart disease
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart and vascular disease
    • Stroke
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Cancer
    • Back pain
    • Muscle strain
    • Sleep disorder
    • Excessive perspiration

    Also, psychological complaints cannot be ruled out, because being overweight has more than just a physical dimension, it also brings mental pressures. Insecurity, depression and avoiding social contact are some of the conditions which may develop.

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    We describe someone as carrying excess weight if their BMI (Body Mass Index) is higher than 30, as stated by National Health Services UK. This is their weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in metres. A diagnosis is made on the basis of the BMI plus some questions about the individual’s mental and physical condition.

    As regards physical condition, the questions relate to dietary habits and physical activity.

    Aspects of their social environment such as work, school and home are also discussed. In most cases this gives sufficient detail to decide upon a treatment.

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