Burjeel Hospital discusses causes and treatment of obesity

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Obesity is when your body mass index (BMI, weight in kg/height in m2) exceeds 30. Obesity occurs when a person's calorie intake exceeds the amount of energy they burn. However, what causes this is unclear. Multiple factors may be responsible: Environmental (lifestyle behaviours), psychological (people eat when they are bored, sad or angry), genetic (family of obese individuals) and other factors (thyroid gland dysfunction, cortisone issues, certain medication etc).

Being overweight is linked to a number of health problems, including heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease and gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout and breathing problems such as sleep apnoea (when a person stops breathing for a short time during sleep) and asthma.

Fortunately, even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10kg can bring significant health improvements, such as lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Obesity is treated by behaviour and lifestyle changes. It is a long term process. Learning about nutrition, changing eating habits, increasing physical activity, changing attitudes about eating, joining a weight loss programme, developing support systems and following drug therapies ordered by your doctor are important.

The keys to weight management include making lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and activity and changing dietary habits. The drugs today mainly suppress appetite or absorption of fat. They can have side effects and are usually prescribed with a nutrition programme just for a few weeks.

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Surgery should be offered at centres committed to long-term follow-up and as an addition to diet, exercise and behaviour modification programmes. Surgical procedures have had the most long-term success. These are of two types: Restrictive (to reduce food intake) and malabsorptive (one does not absorb all that is eaten) or a combination of both. Surgeries are effective if the guidelines of the surgeon and dietitian are followed. Burjeel Hospital conducts such surgeries; a well-experienced team counsels patients and helps them choose the right solution.

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