Saturday, November 24, 2018

Morbid Obesity on the Rise Among Bangalore’s IT Professionals

The World Obesity Federation recognizes obesity as a "chronic, relapsing, progressive disease process, associated with comorbidities such as diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and infertility.” A recent study also linked morbid obesity to 13 types of cancer. In Karnataka, obesity is growing rapidly across both men and women, and across rural and urban areas. The proportion of men who are obese has doubled in the last decade. Increasing urbanization can be a contributing factor to these trends - lack of physical activity and growing consumption of fast food are proven to fuel obesity. But obesity is no more confined to urban areas. Even in rural areas, nearly 20% of men and women in Karnataka are obese. Widespread awareness of obesity as a serious medical condition is the need of the hour, so that patients consult doctors in time to benefit from the full range of available treatment options.       

Dr. Shivaram H V, a surgeon in Aster CMI Hospital,observes that obese patients usually do not consult a medical professional promptly, “In the Indian scenario, more than 60% of individuals wait more than 6-10 years to seek out clinically proven weight-loss methods. By that time, such patients may have two or more comorbidities – such as sleep apnea or type 2 diabetes. Amongst residents of Bangalore, particularly among software professionals aged less than 30 years, the incidence of obesity is rising rapidly. Based on clinical experience, I would estimate the growth to be as high as 15% per annum. It is imperative that as soon as patients observe a steady and uncontrolled weight gain, they consult a medical expert who can identify the cause and advise corrective measures.”

Obesity treatment plans aim to limit weight gain, and eventually help patients reach and stay at a healthy weight. Treatment plans usually include diet and lifestyle recommendations, medications and bariatric surgery for eligible patients. Dr. Shivaram H V added, “When obesity is treated effectively, many comorbid conditions also show improvement. For instance, bariatric surgery is proven to help control Type 2 Diabetes in obese Indian patients. In my experience, this benefit is long-lasting. With simple habits and routines implemented by the patient post-surgery, glycemic control persists for at least 10-15 years. Similarly, I have observed sustained improvements in patients with high blood pressure, cholesterol and PCOD.”

Worldwide, of the four million deaths attributed to excess body weight in 2015, nearly 40% occurred among those whose body mass index (BMI) was above the threshold of obesity, i.e., 30 or above. To help ensure that severe obesity is treated with proven methods, insurance coverage of obesity treatment is a key step. Dr. Shivaram H Vemphasizes, “About 40% of patients visiting our hospital had previously avoided seeking obesity treatment due to financial concerns. Some even question whether they should spend money on a ‘cosmetic’ need. They discover later the reality that obesity is not just a matter of appearance, but also a serious health issue.” Recently, the IRDAI panel clarified that obesity, if contracted after buying a health cover, cannot be excluded from coverage. Dr. Shivaram applauded this step saying, “Covering obesity treatment with insurance will reinforce the seriousness of the condition, its potential to drive related lifestyle diseases and the need to seek appropriate medical treatment.”

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