Obesity

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Overview

Overweight and obesity together make up one of the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S. Obesity is a chronic disease that can seriously affect your health.  

Overweight means that you have extra body weight, and obesity means having a high amount of extra body fat. Being overweight or obese raises your risk for health problems. These include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer.

Public health experts agree that overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in this country and around the world. More than a third of U.S. adults are obese. People ages 60 and older are more likely to be obese than younger adults, according to the most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And the problem also affects children. Approximately 20%, of U.S. children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 are obese.

Symptoms

Body mass index (BMI) is often used to diagnose obesity. To calculate BMI, multiply weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches and then divide again by height in inches. Or divide weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.

BMI Weight status

Below 18.5 Underweight

18.5-24.9 Normal

25.0-29.9 Overweight

30.0 and higher Obesity

Asians with BMI of 23 or higher may have an increased risk of health problems.

For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. However, BMI doesn't directly measure body fat, so some people, such as muscular athletes, may have a BMI in the obesity category even though they don't have excess body fat.

Many doctors also measure a person's waist circumference to help guide treatment decisions. Weight-related health problems are more common in men with a waist circumference over 40 inches (102 centimeters) and in women with a waist measurement over 35 inches (89 centimeters).

Causes

Although there are genetic, behavioral, metabolic and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through normal daily activities and exercise. Your body stores these excess calories as fat.

In the United States, most people's diets are too high in calories — often from fast food and high-calorie beverages. People with obesity might eat more calories before feeling full, feel hungry sooner, or eat more due to stress or anxiety.

Many people who live in Western countries now have jobs that are much less physically demanding, so they don't tend to burn as many calories at work. Even daily activities use fewer calories, courtesy of conveniences such as remote controls, escalators, online shopping and drive-through banks.

Risk factors

Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. ...

High blood pressure. ...

Heart disease. ...

Stroke. ...

Sleep apnea. ...

Metabolic syndrome. ...

Fatty liver diseases. ...

Osteoarthritis.

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Complications

Heart disease and strokes. Obesity makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart disease and strokes.

Type 2 diabetes. ...

Certain cancers. ...

Digestive problems. ...

Sleep apnea. ...

Osteoarthritis. ...

Severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Prevention

Choosing healthier foods (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and protein sources) and beverages. Limiting unhealthy foods (refined grains and sweets, potatoes, red meat, processed meat) and beverages (sugary drinks) Increasing physical activity. Limiting television time, screen time, and other “sit time”