Diseases and Conditions
Obesity is an excess of body fat, and it's one of the most common health problems in the United States.
InteliHealth Medical Content
What Is It?
Obesity is an excess of body fat.
It is difficult to directly measure body fat. Body mass index (BMI) is a popular method of defining a healthy weight. BMI should be used as a guide, along with waist size, to help estimate the amount of body fat.
BMI estimates a healthy weight based on your height. Because it considers height as well as weight, it is a more accurate guide than body weight alone.
To calculate your BMI:
- Multiply your weight in pounds by 703
- Divide that answer by your height in inches
- Divide that answer by your height in inches again
Then use the chart below to see what category your BMI falls into.
18.5 - 24.9
25.0 - 29.9
30.0 - 39.9
Obesity can shorten your life.
It can also put you at risk of developing a number of conditions. These include:
Many other health risks are higher for people who are obese. These risks may increase as the degree of obesity increases.
Where you carry the extra weight is also important. People who carry extra weight around their waist may be more likely to experience health problems caused by obesity than those who carry it in their legs and thighs.
People become obese for a number of reasons. Often, several of these factors are involved. Some of the most common reasons for obesity are:
The primary warning sign of obesity is an above-average body weight. If you are obese, you may also experience:
- Trouble sleeping
- Sleep apnea. This is a condition in which breathing is irregular and periodically stops during sleep.
- Shortness of breath
- Varicose veins
- Skin problems caused by moisture that accumulates in the folds of your skin
- Osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints, especially the knees
Obesity increases your risk for:
- High blood pressure
- High levels of blood sugar (diabetes)
- High cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels
Obesity is diagnosed by calculating your BMI. BMI is based on your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or more defines obesity. In general, this means your body weight is 35% to 40% more than your ideal body weight.
Your body fat also can be calculated by using skin calipers. Calipers are an instrument that measures the thickness of your skin.
Body shape is also important. People who carry most of their weight around the waist (apple shaped) have a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes than do people with big hips and thighs (pear shaped).
Waist circumference is a good measure of abdominal obesity. Women with a waist more than 35 inches or men with a waist more than 40 inches are at increased risk.
Obesity is often a lifelong problem. Once excess weight is gained, it is not easy to lose. Once lost, you will have to work at maintaining your healthier weight.
The length of time it takes to reach your weight goal depends on:
- How much you have to lose
- Your activity level
- The type of treatment or weight-loss program you choose
Diseases and conditions caused by obesity often improve as you lose weight.
To prevent obesity and maintain a healthy body weight, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly.
Preventing obesity is important. Once fat cells form, they remain in your body forever. Although you can reduce the size of fat cells, you cannot get rid of them.
Weight reduction is achieved by:
- Consuming fewer calories
- Increasing activity and exercise
Structured approaches and therapies to reduce weight include:
When To Call a Professional
Call your doctor if you need help losing weight. Also call if you have any of the symptoms or complications of obesity.
When to Call a Professional
Some people are successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Others, however, find it difficult to maintain the weight loss for long. Most people return to their pretreatment weight within five years.
American Dietetic Association
120 South Riverside Plaza
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
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