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There is no avoiding the fact that people in the UK are getting heavier. Being over your optimal weight range can lead to a whole range of health problems, from high blood pressure to heart disease. For men, being overweight or obese is one of the main causes of erectile dysfunction (ED).

The latest statistics show that in England, over a quarter of adults are obese (25.9%) and a further 37.9% are overweight. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, and a person is classed as overweight if their BMI is between 25 and 30. In 1993, the percentage of obese adults in the UK was 14.9%, so the rise is alarming.

The reasons for the obesity epidemic are various. People over the age of 45 are the most likely to be overweight or obese, and men are over 10% more likely than women to have a problem with their weight. Most people have a natural tendency to put on weight in middle age and to be less active, so this may be part of the explanation.

There is also a link between socioeconomic status and weight. Those who live in the most deprived areas of the country and have the lowest level of qualifications have much higher obesity rates than the population of more affluent areas. But this certainly isn’t the whole picture.

Some scientific research suggests that certain people have a genetic tendency to put on weight more easily than others. We all know someone who seems to eat whatever they like and never seem to gain a pound and others who can’t seem to shift their excess weight no matter how much they diet or exercise.

Of course, one of the major reasons that more people are overweight is down to changing eating habits. There is no getting away from the fact that the more calories we consume and the less exercise we do, the more weight we will gain. Food is more readily available than at any point in history, and much of it is designed to pique our appetite rather than keep us full.

We are also on average much less active than in the past, with an increase in car ownership, and a rise in occupations that demand long hours sitting at a desk. Technology can make our lives easier, but it also keeps us even less active, as we can order groceries at the touch of a button instead of pushing a trolley around the supermarket for example.

Unfortunately, weight gain can lock people in a vicious circle because it makes taking exercise more difficult, and they may feel inhibited or uncomfortable about using public places such as gyms or swimming pools.

Another sometimes overlooked reason for weight gain is psychological issues, such as low self-esteem, stress, or depression that leads to comfort eating. Again, this can be a vicious cycle because being overweight tends to worsen our mental health. Despite all the barriers, however, most people can lose weight successfully with a combination of diet and exercise.

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