INTRODUCTION

1 out of 2 Malaysians are diagnosed with abdominal obesity, where the excess body fat accumulates in the stomach area. Furthermore, the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) revealed that 50.1% of the adult population in Malaysia are considered overweight and 19.7% obese in 2019. It also states that obesity rates are particularly high among 54.7% of women, 63.9% of ethnic Indians, and 60.9% of people in the 55 to 59 age group.

A common guideline for obesity is a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI). A
person with a BMI of 23-24.9 is considered overweight, while 25-29.9 is diagnosed as obese. A BMI of more than 30 is already categorized as morbidly obese. Obesity can then lead to the development of various chronic conditions including heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, various types of cancer, lung problems, among others.

Obesity Effects and Risks

Excess fat in the body makes it harder for the heart to pump blood and narrows your arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure. Getting your BMI close to 25 often helps bring blood pressure down.

Unhealthy foods, specifically those high in fat, makes you gain weight and raises your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. LDL takes cholesterol directly to the arteries causing a build up in the heart, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Foods with soluble fiber — like oats and other whole grains, beans, apples, grapes, strawberries, eggplant, and okra — will help to get your cholesterol down as well as fill you up so you eat fewer calories.

About 8 out of 10 people who get type 2 diabetes are overweight. The reason behind this is that belly fat results in insulin resistance, which is when the body stops processing the amount of sugar in the blood. High blood sugar levels doesn’t only cause diabetes but also problems with the heart, nerves, eyes, and more. There’s no cure for diabetes, but losing weight may help prevent it from developing.

Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease that develops when the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart. It is often caused by the buildup of plaque, or cholesterol deposits, inside the arteries, which can partially or totally block blood flow. The reduced blood flow can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, other coronary artery disease, and heart attack.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Being overweight causes hypertension, one of the leading causes of stroke. As the body’s metabolism changes, it leads to an excess of circulating lipids, high cholesterol, and elevated blood glucose. Over time, it also harms the blood vessels, causing the formation of stroke-causing blood clots in the heart and brain.

The excess fat caused by obesity increases the stress placed on the joints, promoting the risk of inflammation in the body. These factors may lead to the development of complications such as osteoarthritis.

Obesity can lead to the development of various types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, endometrial, and kidney. Fat cells cause long-term inflammation that increases the presence of cancer-related cells that damage the healthy cells in the body. Also, insulin resistance due to the excessive weight trigger the production of cancer cells. Eat healthy and stay active to help avoid cancer, regardless of your weight.

Obesity has not only negative effects on the body, but also the mind. Weight problems and depression are found to be linked with each other. People suffering from depression may turn to excessive eating, with a lack of physical activity. In turn, excessive weight gain can cause people to develop depression and be less motivated.

Excess fat in the body increases the risk of joint pains, making it difficult to do even the simplest movements. An overload of weight is put on the lower back, hip, and knee joints, causing injuries and damage to these areas. Furthermore, being overweight increases fatigue. Losing weight by constant exercise and diet help to reduce the pain while improving your daily functions.

Obesity is a major risk factor for developing chronic kidney disease (CKD), like diabetes and hypertension. The excess accumulation of body fat makes it hard for the kidney to function properly. It also increases the risk of developing End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD), or the gradual loss of kidney function.

Excessive weight is linked to the development of respiratory problems, including asthma. The excess amount of fat in the body causes inflammation in the airways, making it harder to breathe. For people who are already diagnosed with asthma, being overweight makes asthma attacks more frequent. Losing weight helps to clear out the airways.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid flows back to the esophagus, which, in turn, can damage the esophagus. Obesity is associated with the condition, as overweight people tend to have more severe acid reflux. Weight loss is said to decrease the occurrence of acid reflux.

Obesity increases the presence of cholesterol in the body, which leads to the formation of gallstones. It also causes saturation of the bile and causes gallstone formation. Unhealthy diets consisting of foods high in sugar and fat, plus an inactive lifestyle, increases the risk of the condition. A diet low in fat and high in fiber, as well as consuming more vegetables, helps to prevent the formation of gallstones.

Symptoms of Obesity

Excess body fat accumulation

One of the more obvious signs of obesity is gaining excessive weight. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a helpful way to know if you are in the obese category. A BMI of 25.0-29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30.0 and higher is categorized as obese.

Shortness of breath

If you experience shortness of breath, you might have accumulated excessive fat in your body. You may experience breathing problems by doing simple movements, such as walking up a few steps in the stairs or carrying a few bags of groceries from your car to your house. You may also notice how the shortness of breath persists even after a long time of sitting or lying down.

Sweating more than usual

Obese and overweight people are more likely to excessively sweat. As you gain more weight, there are more calories you need to burn. As a result, more heat is produced in the body, leading to more sweat. Sweating in areas such as the armpits, back, chest, and groins can be early signs you are gaining weight.

Snoring

Excessive weight gain can worsen several sleeping problems. Obese and overweight people are more likely to have a snoring problem. More weight accumulates around the trunk and neck area, compromising your breathing during sleeping.

Trouble sleeping

Obesity can also negatively affect the quality of your sleep. It can lead to insomnia and trouble sleeping. The excess weights affects your metabolism, deteriorating your sleep cycle and quality of sleep. Obese and overweight tend sleep later in the evening, with only a few hours of not deep sleep, causing them to feel tired and sleepy in the morning.

Skin problems

Obesity is associated with several dermatological conditions. For obese and overweight people, skin swells and darkens in some parts of the body due to inflammation in the blood vessels, specifically areas like the neck and body folds. Other skin problems associated with weight include dryness, roughness, and discolouration.

Inability to perform simple physical tasks

Having excessive weight makes it more difficult for people to perform even simple tasks. Obese and overweight people tend to have a hard time driving, as their stomach get in the way from handling the steering wheel. The excess can also get in a way when they try to crouch down on the floor to pick up something. The excess weight also causes joint pains, making it hard to move.

Fatigue

It is more common for obese and overweight people to feel more tired as compared to normal weight people. Due to body pains and sleep problems caused by excess weight, people tend to experience fatigue easily and for longer periods. If you experience constant daytime sleepiness, headaches, appetite loss, and muscle soreness, it means you are fatigued.

Psychological impact

Obesity is linked to several mental health problems. People with depression, anxiety, and experience extreme stress tend to eat excessively. As a result, they try things like wearing oversize clothes to hide their body. In turn, gaining more weight tends to become a source of stress for people experiencing it. They also tend to avoid social interaction, due to fear of people judging their appearance.