MORE than 55,000 people in Bournemouth and Poole are at risk of life threatening illnesses because they fail to realise they are obese, according to a new survey.

Investigations by Nuffield Health, the not-for-profit private hospital, showed obesity levels in the south west region are above national average.

Of the 46 per cent of those questioned, only five per cent perceived themselves to be obese, instead considering themselves to be overweight. But results of Body Mass Index tests, revealed that a much larger group – 13 per cent – were obese, with a BMI of more than 30. Three per cent were found to be morbidly obese.

GP and Medical Director for Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, Dr Davina Deniszczyc said: “There is a very big difference between being slightly overweight and clinical obesity.

“Once BMI reaches 30 the body experiences physiological changes which can put massive pressure on the vital organs, increasing the risk of numerous conditions, including heart attack, stroke and liver disease.

“Across the south west, we are seeing a vast number of people unwittingly straying into dangerous medical territory and perhaps not realising that the obesity awareness campaigns are directed at them. As healthcare professionals we need to prioritise the health of patients over the risk of ‘hurt feelings’ caused by a frank and open conversation about their weight.

“It’s important that patients have the information they need in order to make informed decisions about their health.

“While there is a need to increase access to clinically recognised weight management programmes and treatments, some patients may simply benefit through structured information and goal setting.”

Intervention is needed

Obesity levels are set to increase between one and 10 per cent across the UK by 2018.

Experts warn that, without immediate intervention, many local healthcare resources will become overwhelmed by obesity related illness.

The survey found that: 75 per cent were unaware that obesity increases the risk of some cancers, including breast cancer and bowel cancer.

Sixty per cent were unaware it also increases the risk of liver disease and 53 per cent did not know that obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis.

Forty-six per cent were unaware that obesity is linked to increased risk of stroke.