Answers On Weight
No one wants to be obese, and knowing how and why we gain weight goes a long way toward staying healthy.
Most people with spinal-cord injury (SCI) know they have unique health concerns. They also know it’s important to have answers to questions about preventing or managing health problems.
Weight gain is a serious health concern. The problem is that most people with SCI don’t know the facts about obesity.
Everyone’s weight is largely dependent on body metabolism. Simply put, your metabolism is the way your body converts the food you eat into the energy your body burns to function. You gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. You lose weight if you eat fewer calories than you burn.
Most people with SCI aren’t as active after injury as they were before. This inactivity is largely due to limited mobility, so those with higher levels of injury tend to be less active than individuals with lower levels of injury.
People who are less active need fewer calories to function. People gain weight when they don’t lower their calorie intake to match their lower calorie needs or increase their activity level to burn more calories. If these adjustments aren’t made, people become overweight and obese as they lose muscle and develop excess fat.
Am I Obese?
A Four Compartment Model seems to be the most reliable way to identify obesity.
This test measures total body fat, mineral, water and protein to determine if a person is obese. However, most people do not have access to this method of testing.
Waist size is probably the best measure of obesity for people with SCI. People who are obese usually have fat around the waist. This type of fat is linked to greater obesity-related health problems. This is true even if BMI falls within the normal range.
You can measure your waist size by placing a measuring tape around your abdomen (place the tape at your upper hip bone and measure horizontally). The risk for obese-related health problems is higher for people with a waist size greater than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women.
Not only do people with SCI have the same higher risk for health concerns associated with obesity as people in the general population, but they also have a higher risk for additional medical conditions:
- Pressure ulcers
- Urinary tract infections
- Pulmonary embolism
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (observed in people who are obese and push a manual wheelchair)
Additionally, excess weight often limits physical mobility, so people with SCI who are obese are less likely to participate in community activities.
Social inactivity can negatively affect physical and psychosocial well-being along with quality of life.
It’s the combination of diet and physical activity that appears to be the answer for people with SCI.
For more information, talk with your doctor or visit norc.uab.edu.
Answers On Weight
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