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A Growing Tummy! Five Reasons You Should Be Worried…

A growing tummy! Five reasons you should be worried…

I will not lie to you, everything you read here is inspired by my own fears. My friends and family have been constantly complaining about my growing tummy. First, I was embarrassed, then I was scared. You know, being in the medical field you are extra cautious because you know all the bad things that can happen if you are careless. Slightly high cholesterol and a strong history of Diabetes in my family only makes things worse. So I’m on a mission to fight this, to get those flat abs everybody desires.

So if you are like me, worried that you can’t wear a tight shirt or a dress, or embarrassed to swim shirtless, I promise you that you will be a part of this quest to fight our growing tummies. But first of all,let me take you through a few reasons why this bulging mass of fat is not just a cosmetic thing.

How fat is too fat?

Some people are fat everywhere. Some are fat mostly around their tummies. Now while this first thing can be genetic, the second one means that you have overeaten and done little exercise and it is more dangerous.

BMI (Body Mass Index) can give you an idea of how fat you are. You just need your height and weight to calculate it. If your BMI is more than the normal range, you are “overweight”, and if it’s even higher, you are “obese” (it just means you are very overweight). The problem of being obese is called ‘obesity’.

But it doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, the muscular bodybuilding champion Lucian Pushparaj weighs well over 100 kilos, and obviously, we don’t call him ‘fat’. And I told you about the people who have fat everywhere. So the size of your tummy (the scientific term is waist circumference) is an important measure of your real risk of bad health problems, the second kind of fat which is basically due to bad eating and not enough exercising.

Growing Tummy

Are you too fat?

Rather than me trying to explain how to measure these, I will give you this nice link to calculate your BMI. Just enter your height and weight in preferred units and you are good to go.  And this 30 second YouTube video will show you how to measure your waist circumference.

If you are of Asian origin like me, a BMI of more than 23 makes you overweight, and if it’s more than 27, you fall in the ‘obese’ category. Cut-off points for the waist are 90 centimeters for males and 80 centimeters for females.

Obesity is unhealthy. It is a disease condition that can lead to many other troublesome and dangerous diseases. It is a global problem: around the world, 4 in 10 adults are either overweight or obese, in the last 30 years the number of obese people have tripled, and 75% of obese people are from developing countries like ours. Reading all this may at first be a little depressing, but it’s my duty to gently warn you so that you can avoid this stuff altogether. As they say, prevention is always better than cure.

None of the stuff I take you through below is wishful thinking or my personal opinion, it’s all hardcore science, based on evidence.

Obesity can give you unpleasant heartburn and make you weak in the knees

All that excess fat can be too heavy to different parts of our bodies. When we stand and walk, the extra weight can stress our knee bones and with time this can result in too much wear and tear and result in osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that occurs when the protective cushion between our knee bones wears off, giving pain and stiffness in the knees.

And when you sleep, that big tummy increases the pressure inside your stomach, and make all that acid go up into your food pipe, giving you an unpleasant and sometimes really painful burning sensation in your chest, commonly called heartburn. And if you happen to have troublesome gastritis, it can make things worse.

Snoring, and drowsy during the day!

Too much fat in the jaws and neck can sort of choke you when you are sleeping, causing narrowing of the upper airways, which results in excessive and regular snoring. (remember occasional and not too loud snoring can be normal). Now this can result in a less than ideal sleep because when there is not enough oxygen while you sleep, you can have brief periods where breathing stops, so you have to pause your deep sleep to take a breath, affecting the quality of your sleep. This can result in daytime sleepiness and is a risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

Obesity is an easy way to get Diabetes.

You have heard about diabetes, and if you have a family full of diabetic people like me, is dreading the day it decides to get to you. ( diabetes we talk about here is Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, the one we commonly see. We will talk about diabetes in detail in the future)

Well, diabetes can affect you from head to toe, and it’s insidious, slowly damaging different parts of our body. While genes do play a part in diabetes, an overweight person is three times more likely to get Diabetes during her lifetime than a normal person. And with increasing weight, your risk rises rapidly. It has to do with what scientists called an ‘insulin resistance’; insulin is a chemical that keeps your blood sugar level in check, but excess fat, in a complicated process that I won’t bore you by explaining, causes our body to be less responsive to insulin, resulting in high levels of sugar in the blood which has the potential of wreaking havoc in our blood vessels and nerves.

And there’s more bad news, Asians in general have a higher risk of getting it than the rest of the world. Now if you have already got it, don’t worry, it’s a perfectly manageable disease with proper attention, and you can live a relatively normal life. But it can be a challenge, so it’s always better to nip it in the bud. And keeping your weight under control will give you your best possible chance of avoiding it.

Growing Tummy

Heart Attacks, literally

A heart attack occurs when there’s a severe blockage in a blood vessel supplying blood to the heart, and a stroke occurs when a similar thing happens in the brain. Excess weight gain puts you at high risk for both of these conditions. Diabetes alone is a risk factor for both. So if you are obese and diabetic, the chances of getting these life-threatening conditions become even higher.

Cancers, cancers, and cancers

Well to make an already depressing article even sadder, your excess weight, especially if you are in the ‘obese’ range, can put you at a higher risk of many cancers.

Breast cancer is a relatively common cancer type in women and obese women have a higher risk of developing it. Fat can convert a certain chemical called ‘androgen’ into ‘estrogen’. We have heard of estrogen as the female sex hormone. It is of course an important chemical in the female body, but too much of it can promote abnormal growths in breasts that can later turn into full blown cancer. For similar reasons, obese women are also at risk of developing womb cancers, specifically in the ‘endometrium’, the inner lining of the womb.

In men, cancer in the prostate is about 20% more likely in obese people. And both men and women have about a 30% higher risk of developing cancer in the large intestine, compared to a normal-weight person.

Do not Dispair..

So, you can see all that excess fat in your tummy is far worse than it looks. But don’t despair, all is not doom and gloom. In fact, obesity, unlike some other things in our lives, is something we can control, it’s something we can fight, something we can overcome. Now that we understand the gravity of the issue, we can discuss what we can do to overcome it. And you might wonder if being overweight is associated with this much of a range of problems, getting back to a healthier weight by changing our lifestyle should mean we are at a lesser risk of developing all that. And gladly, science agrees with you.

Did you like this post? Then add a comment below and let me know your best insight from this post? Also do you have any article ideas related to health? Let me know by adding a comment below.

One more thing. Do you know anyone who has a growing tummy? Then share this post with them. You might be doing them a favor. Just click any social media icon you see on the screen!

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Nival Kolambage

After practicing medicine for nearly three years, Nival currently dabbles in Health Informatics, with the hope of contributing to innovations that improve healthcare. Despite being frequently asked whether he is a “Real Doctor” or “Why did you give up medicine to sit in front of a computer all day?”, Nival is determined that he will now be able to make an impact on a bigger scale than he could before. He’s also a hardcore cricket fan, a foodie and an avid Elon Musk fan.

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