From Fat to Fit

One of the major health concerns faced by many countries today is obesity, a chronic condition in which the patient has excessive fat within the body.

Today, obesity is not just an image problem. Excessive fat in the body can be caused by genetic, environmental and social factors, and it is a chronic disease that requires treatment. This condition severely affects quality of life, making it difficult to move as you will, and is associated with health problems including high blood pressure, infertility, joint pain, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.

One way to determine if a person is obese is through their Body Mass Index (BMI), calculated using their height and weight. In Asia, due to the high risk of metabolic disease associated with obesity, the cut-off point is lower than that for the western population.

  • 5 to 22.4 – Healthy Weight
  • 5 to 27.4 – Overweight
  • 5 to 37.4 – Moderate Obesity
  • 5 and above – Severe Obesity
Dr Pok Eng Hong
Dr Pok Eng Hong

Another definition is central obesity, determined by visceral fat in the waist. A waist circumference greater than 90cm in males and 80cm in females can lead to long term negative effects.

Culture and Lifestyle

Witha love for food and strong culture of entertaining guests by providing refreshments, as well as a general lack of sufficient exercise, Malaysia is the most obese nation in Southeast Asia. Over 50% of Malaysians are overweight.This condition has cost the country many productive years, and up to 19% of Malaysia’s healthcare spending.

Women are especially at risk. Weight gain caused by pregnancy is perfectly normal, but losing this weight may be difficult for many. Some women develop low thyroid function during and after pregnancy, and the stress caused by taking care of a baby can also contribute to their unhealthy weight.

Weight Management

Like any disease, obesity requires intervention and should not be ignored. Diet and exercise are often the first step to control weight. However, the majority of patients regain weight that is lost a few years after such treatment, and find it difficult to maintain these programmes in the long term.

In recent years, surgery has come to the forefront of treatment, due to long-term benefits. These procedures are performed through laparoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive approach which results in less pain, quicker recovery and fewer complications.

Common procedures include:

  • Gastric Bypass – Reduces the size of your stomach and small intestine, so that you feel fuller with less food and not absorb all the calories from the consumed food.
  • Sleeve Gastrectomy – A portion of the stomach is removed, permanently reducing the size of the stomach, leaving a sleeve or tube-like structure.
  • Adjustable Gastric Band – A inflatable silicone device is placed around the upper part of the stomach to slow consumption of food.

An experienced surgeon can evaluate a person’s condition, fitness and diet to decide the most suitable treatment for their needs. After a surgery, the patient is encouraged to form good eating habits and have an active lifestyle to maintain good health.

Prevention and Maintenance

The key to preventing obesity and maintaining weight loss after a surgery is life-long commitment to a healthy lifestyle. This means that we must eat healthily and exercise daily.

This is especially important for children, as overweight children are more likely to grow up as overweight adults, and are at risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis despite their age. They may also face psychological problems such as poor self-esteem or experience bullying at school. Obese children may also experience asthma, liver disease, early puberty and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

Parents can prevent their children from becoming overweight by leading a healthy lifestyle, as children often learn by example. Educating them on healthy foods, and encouraging an active lifestyle should be a priority, as good habits formed will stay with them through adult life.

As with all health conditions, obesity can be treated.Today’s treatments are safe and effective, targeting the root cause of the problem. Should you need assistance to overcome your weighty woes, visit a trusted doctor to discover the many options available!