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India's next healthcare crisis might be round the corner while we continue to focus on the havoc wreck by the pandemic. Obesity in the country is expected to triple itself from 2010 to 2040.

While we continue to fight the novel coronavirus, the following health crisis for the country might already be looming large. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines obesity as excessive fat accumulation that presents several health risks. A Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and above 30, it is considered obese. A report by National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) revealed that the number of adults falling under 'obese' would double for the age group of 20 to 69 years, while the overall rate of obesity in the country is likely to triple itself by 2040. 

The Indian Journal of Community Medicine mentioned that presently India had more than 135 million obese people. The study mentions that as a country, we are under the double burden of under-nutrition and over-nutrition. Researchers have proven a steady increase in heart conditions and diabetes amongst obese patients. The forecast predicts the largest increase in overweight patients amongst older people, particularly from rural areas. Indians are racing above average in the prevalence of overweight people. In 1998, about 8.9 percent of women in the country were overweight, whereas the number shot up to 15.5 percent of overweight women by 2015. In the same duration, the overall obesity prevalence rate increased from 2.2 percent to 5.1 percent.

A report by NCBI predicted that by 2030, 27.8 percent of all overweight in the world would be Indians, and the Indian Obese would account for 5 percent of the world's population. The COVID-19 pandemic painfully highlighted the gaps in the Indian healthcare system. The rising cases of obesity and cardiovascular diseases are more likely to stress the overworked healthcare in the country. The condition varies across social sections of people. While people from higher social-economic sections are more vulnerable to obesity and increased weight gain, people from lower economic sections are rapidly climbing up the ladder.

Consequences Of An Unhealthy Lifestyle 

Rising instances of obesity are consequences of unhealthy eating habits, irregular sleeping timings, and a sedentary lifestyle. The enforced work-from-home system has further aggravated the crisis by blurring the lines between personal and professional life. Prolonged working hours in front of the screen lead to reduced physical activity, strained eyes, and stiffened shoulder and back muscles. Immediate assistance is needed to control the degree of damage. The standard solutions can involve companies taking proactive measures to reduce the working hours for their employees, incentivizing the employees who maintain their weight according to their BMI, and reimbursing the amount for employees if they purchase fitness equipment. 

A sedentary lifestyle leads to an increase in obesity, which causes increases the cholesterol levels and triglycerides. A high cholesterol condition makes a patient vulnerable to experiencing heart attacks and strokes. Secondly, obese individuals need a faster blood supply to provide oxygen and essential nutrients to all body parts. Thus, it can lead to higher blood pressure amongst them. The blood would eventually require more pressure to perform all the tasks, and high blood pressure can cause a sudden heart attack. A majority of heart attacks are seen in obese people. 

Apart from high cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of heart attacks, several obese people are also vulnerable to contracting diabetes. Studies have shown that people over 65 years and suffering from increased weight gain suffer from a rising risk of becoming diabetic. 

Obese people are at a health risk of contracting a plethora of diseases. The bones of the body are biologically designed to carry a controlled weight. When an obese person's bones carry more than usual weight, they risk injuring the cartilage that joins the bones to the joint. This condition is known as Osteoarthritis. Physical diseases are only one of how obesity can adversely affect humans. The mental agony of an obese person and the inferiority complex related to their body image pushes them to clinical depression, anxiety and under-confidence. 

In some cases, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits are not the only causes of obesity. Genetics plays a crucial role while determining the health risks for a person. Several times, family history of cardiovascular diseases and obesity also pushes one to the far end of contracting such conditions. The first thing that an obese person can undertake is to include regular exercise in their routine. Consuming a balanced diet that provides the body with all the nutrition is another step towards a healthy lifestyle.

Is There A Way Forward? 

A reforming approach towards exercise, health, and nutrition in schools can make students understand the meaning of the proverb, "health is wealth". Physical exercise and developing a skill to keep oneself fit like playing a sport can increasingly motivate young students to maintain their bodies. Adults with similar interests can form groups for playing a game in the evenings or a refreshing run in the mornings. Studies show that having a workout partner can motivate people to get out of their comfort zones and indulge in a consistent physical workout. 

Organizations should come up with recreational arenas and regular health check-ups for their employees. According to the results of the health check-ups, the companies can provide incentives to those who maintain their weight according to their BMI. Several companies cover the cost of fitness equipment for their employees, pushing them to buy equipment for a quick home workout. 

There should be a distinct differentiation between the personal and professional lives of employees. A reduced but more productive screen-time can work in favor of both employees and the organization. Since most of the Indian population falls under the 'young' category, we should focus on extracting the maximum and prolonged work out of them. However, many times, the strategy of over-working can backfire. Such a mishap would be catastrophic for India as a developing country. 

The Wire mentioned that in India, two out of five children are prey to undernourishment. In such times, it might be fool-hardy to think of obesity as a red flag since obesity is considered a "rich man's disease". However, pushing the problem under the carpet would do no good. Since the problem has started to make its presence felt, now is the right time to snub it before it engulfs the staggering healthcare system.

This was adapted from an article written by Ratika Rana on the Logical Indian. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine

Content may be edited for style and length.

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