Obesity rates are rapidly increasing in Africa, as in most parts of the world. Overweight and obesity, particularly in urban settings, are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and a variety of cancers.
There is a common misconception that obesity and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) only occur among the wealthy. Poorer populations are experiencing high double-burdens of infectious and chronic diseases. Additionally, sub-Saharan women are far more likely to be obese than men affecting women’s health issues, pregnancy, maternal and infant health.
The greatest risk factors for dying of NCDs are complications with infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, streptococcus, human papillomavirus, viral hepatitis, rubella and parasitic diseases such as malaria.
Obesity is affected by many factors including food choices, sedentary lifestyles, genetics and cultural beliefs. Counterproductively, many countries in the Region view obesity as a sign of prosperity. Sedentary lifestyles are affected by changing modes of transportation, types of work and increasing rates of urbanization.
The upward shift in obesity is associated with:
- increased consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods;
- increased consumption of highly-refined and processed foods;
- decreased consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes;
- increased sedentary lifestyles.
Risks of obesity
It’s very important to take steps to tackle obesity because, as well as causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions.
- type 2 diabetes
- coronary heart disease
- some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.
The best way to treat obesity is to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly.
To do this, you should:
- eat a balanced, calorie-controlled diet as recommended by your GP or weight loss management health professional (such as a dietitian)
- join a local weight loss group
- take up activities such as fast walking, jogging, swimming or tennis for 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) a week
- eat slowly and avoid situations where you know you could be tempted to overeat
You may also benefit from receiving psychological support from a trained healthcare professional to help change the way you think about food and eating.