Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. It is essential to promote the importance of maintaining a healthy weight in decreasing the risk of such diseases. The number of people who are overweight or obese continues to rise dramatically.
The main reason for being overweight is more calories being consumed than used. It is important to live life in energy balance. If you need to lose weight, your calorie intake must be less than the calories you burn. Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet will help you to stay fit and burn more calories. Avoid fad diets that offer unrealistic results and encourage eating (or not eating) specific foods.
Extra weight means that the heart has to work harder to supply blood to the body. It significantly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In children, excess weight means they are three to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before they reach 65. Excess weight also increases the likelihood of developing other problems, which contribute to the risk of heart disease and stroke. An overweight person has a 2-6 times greater risk of developing high blood pressure. The level of cholesterol is affected by the amount of saturated fats eaten every day and if you are overweight you are at greater risk. About 80% of people with diabetes are overweight.
One’s health is at risk not only by the amount of body fat one has, but also by the location of the fat. If you tend to gain weight mostly in the waist (stomach) area, then you have an apple shape. Pear-shaped figures tend to gain weight around the hips and buttocks. Apple shapes have an increased risk of heart disease – so they need to take extra care to maintain a healthy weight.
Tips for healthy eating:
- Adopt a balanced diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grain products, low-fat and fat-free products (but do take calories into account), unsaturated oils (such as sunflower, corn, rape-seed, olive), lean meat, fish and pulses.
- Restrict your salt and sugar intake.
- Eat breakfast and make sure to have at least 3 meals per day.
- Use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling, grilling and baking instead of deep fat-frying and adding extra fat and develop healthy cooking skills.
- Avoid sweets and junk food.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day.
It is essential to complement healthy eating with regular exercise:
- For adults, even 30 minutes of brisk walking daily will help reduce the risk.
- Children should have 60 minutes of physical activity per day.
- Surround yourself and your family with supportive people who either participate with you or remind you to exercise.
- Decrease family television viewing and increase your involvement in regular family sports and activities.
- Encourage your family and friends to exercise with you.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift, participate or create a physical activity group, park at the far end of parking lot so that you have to walk more.
There are 3 kinds of exercises that can be done. They are:
- Stretching (stay loose)
- Aerobic (for blood flow and oxygen)
- Strengthening (toning or building muscles)
The most important exercise for the heart is aerobic exercises: walking, jogging, running, swimming, dancing and cycling are aerobic.
The decision to carry out a physical fitness programme cannot be taken lightly. It requires a life long commitment of time and effort. Exercise must become one of those things that you do without question, like bathing, brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of the benefits of fitness and the risks of unfitness, you will not succeed.
How often, how long and how hard and what kinds of exercises you do should be determined by what you are trying to accomplish. For example, an athlete training for high level competition would follow a different programme than a person whose goals are good health and the ability to meet work and recreational needs.
For health benefits to the heart, lung and circulation perform any vigorous activity for at least 30-60 minutes, 3-4 days each week at 50-75 per cent at your maximum heart rate. Physical activity need not be strenuous to bring health benefits. Moderate-intensity physical activities for 30 minutes or longer on most days provide some benefits. What is important is to include activity as part or a regular routine.
Activities that are especially beneficial when performed regularly include:
- Brisk walking, stair-climbing, aerobic exercise
- Jogging, running, cycling and swimming
- Sport activities such as football, basketball that involve continuous running