Reviewed by Brian R. Robinson, MD
Obesity refers to a weight-to-height ratio that is unhealthy, thereby causing an increase in health problems and premature death. Obesity is generally defined as being more than 20% over the ideal weight for your height.
Obesity is a disease that affects almost one-third of the adult American population (approximately 60 million). The number of overweight and obese Americans has continued to increase since 1960, a trend that is not slowing down. Today, about 65% of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese. Each year, obesity causes at least 300,000 excess deaths in the U.S., and healthcare costs of American adults with obesity amount to approximately $100 billion. Obesity is the second leading cause of unnecessary deaths.
As you age, your obesity risk increases. Overeating and lack of exercise increase your chance of becoming overweight. For some people, genes play a role—children whose parents are obese are 10 times more likely to be obese than children of normal weight parents. Other risks include: type-2 diabetes
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, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
An improper balance of calories consumed versus calories expended causes obesity. Although most people believe a poor diet and lack of exercise to be the sole origin of obesity, the truth is that scientists still do not completely understand all of the causes. Extra calories not used by the body are stored as fat, and obese people may expend less energy when at rest than non-obese people. In addition, obese people may find it difficult to exercise.
Many factors aside from diet and exercise may play a vital role in determining body weight. Scientists recently discovered genes that influence appetite and metabolism. It is unclear how many people are overweight due to a genetic predisposition to obesity or to an improper diet and exercise regimen. Obesity greatly increases the risk of many long-term diseases and early death. People who are 40% overweight are more likely to die prematurely as compared to someone who is not overweight.
Distribution of fat on the body varies according to the individual; gender is also an influence. Women generally accumulate excess fat around the hips and buttocks, giving their figures a pear-like shape. In contrast, men usually develop fat around their abdomens, giving them more of an apple-like shape. Persons with fat around the abdomen are more likely to develop many of the health problems associated with obesity. Doctors have developed a waist-to-hip ratio that can measure whether someone has an apple or pear shape.
To diagnose obesity, your doctor will compare your height with your weight and get your full medical history. He may also decide to check your blood for high cholesterol levels.
Decreasing fat storages may be accomplished be eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. One should avoid fad dieting or weight-loss powders and pills. The body must burn more calories than it consumes in order to lose fat. Consult your doctor or a nutritionist to construct a meal plan that makes sense for you.
Exercise is also part of a successful weight-loss program. Most doctors recommend approximately 30 minutes of exercise per day. Once you reach your goal weight, exercise will help you maintain it.
Learn what triggers your unhealthy eating. Is it stress? Boredom? Keep a diary that you can refer to, and discuss your habits with your physician.
In severe cases, gastric bypass surgery can be performed.