The Obesity Problem
Obesity has become a worldwide problem and a serious health issue in the Caribbean. The main causes are lack of physical activity and poor nutrition. Both problems can be tackled and with the correct knowledge and discipline, weight can be lost.
According to a Business Insider report from March 2019, out of a total of 191 countries, six Caribbean countries were ranked in the top 20 unhealthiest countries in the world. The Dominican Republic was ranked #18, Jamaica at #16, Trinidad and Tobago came in at #14, Haiti at #9, Barbados was #5 and St. Lucia #2 respectively.
What does this report mean for the health of the Caribbean people? It may mean that cancer will become the number one cause of death in the Caribbean. According to The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), cancer is now the second leading cause of death in the Caribbean.
What is Obese
Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation which can present a risk to a person’s health. The strict scientific definition of being overweight is having a body mass index (BMI) above 25. This universal measure is very practical to classify and help understand how each person’s nutrition reflects a different body type.
A BMI below 18.5 is classified as underweight, between 18.5 and 24.9, it’s a normal or healthy weight, between 25.0 and 29.9 classifies as overweight. If your BMI is above 30, you classify as obese.
How to Calculate Your Body Mass Index:
- Weigh yourself. If you don’t have a scale at home, your local pharmacy may have one for you to use. You can also go to the doctor or other medical offices where they help you weigh yourself. You should weigh yourself in kilograms. Let’s pretend you weigh 88 kilograms.
- You then measure yourself. You can use a measuring tape. Measure your height in meters. Let’s say you measure 1 meter and 75 centimeters, which is 1.75 m.
The formula for Body Mass Index is simple. You divide your weight by the square of your height!
BMI = weight in kilograms / (height in meters)2
In our example: My BMI = 88 / (1.75)2 = 88 / 3.06 = 28.75
So then you go to the range provided and check which category you belong to. In this case, 28.75 would classify as overweight.
What Causes Obesity
Reports indicate approximately 58% of Latin America and the Caribbean’s total population is classified as being overweight.
One of the causes of obesity is a high-fat diet. In prior years Caribbean societies ate a largely traditional diet of unrefined plant-based foods consisting of locally grown indigenous fruits, vegetables and ground provisions. However, in recent years communities are consuming a more Western style of eating. The Western diet consists largely of high sodium, high saturated and trans fat, and processed meats. French fries, fried chicken, pizza and burgers are now a staple in many Caribbean countries. In addition, people are becoming less active. This shift in diet has led to an alarming rate of obesity and is a primary cause of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) such as cancer.
There is a pressing need for more education about nutrition and physical exercise. Taking care of your weight and body is not only about looking and feeling good but about living a long and happy life.
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