About Obesity

In recent years, morbid obesity has become the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States after smoking, with 400,000 deaths attributable to obesity each year. Seven out of 10 U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and the annual cost to the U.S. healthcare system have recently been estimated at $147 billion, double what it was a decade ago. Southern U.S. states have the highest obesity rates in the country.

Health Risks of Obesity

Obesity is a major risk factor for serious medical conditions, including type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus), high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In fact, it is estimated that obesity accounts for 85% of the total cost of treating type 2 diabetes and 45% of the cost of treating high blood pressure. The effects of obesity are similar to 20 years of aging.

  • Heart Disease: Obese people tend to have elevated cholesterol – which leads to plaque buildup in the arteries. They are also twice as likely to have hypertension.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: People with excess body fat often become resistant to insulin (it helps the body store glucose). The onset of diabetes occurs as a direct result of the rise in the glucose levels.
  • Stroke: The risk of having a stroke is 2-4 times greater in people with type 2 diabetes, 90% of whom are overweight.
  • Colon Cancer: Obese people are at greater risk of colon cancer as abdominal fat appears to increase risk more than fat elsewhere (which is why men have a higher risk).
  • Osteoarthritis: Being overweight places additional strain on the spine, hip and knee joints. This causes a loss of cartilage; as cartilage deteriorates, joint space narrows and bones grind together. For every 2-pound increase in weight, the risk of developing arthritis is increased by 9-13%.

In addition, obese women are at greater risk of infertility, endometrial cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer. Childhood obesity is also increasing – 17% of the children age 6-19 are overweight and at risk for becoming obese adults, three times the rate reported in the 1970s. Children of two obese parents have an 80% to 90% chance of being obese.

The Role of Society in the Obesity Epidemic

  • Average woman’s dress size in 1950: 8. Average woman’s dress size in 2000: 14.
  • In 1916, a Coca Cola was served in a 6.5 fluid oz. bottle containing 79 calories. Today, a 16 oz. bottle of Coke has 194 calories.
  • In 1955, McDonald’s French fries were 210 calories for a 2.4 oz. serving. In 2004, McDonald’s fries were 610 calories for a 7 oz. serving.
  • In one year, an average child will watch about 10,000 commercials touting food and beverages.
  • We as a society lead a more sedentary lifestyle with less physical activity and less physical education in schools. We watch more TV and play more video games.

Where Do You Fit In?

Use the Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator on the right to find out your Body Mass Index ratio. You can also calculate your BMI using the following calculation:

BMI = [Weight in pounds ÷ height in inches2] x 703

Below are the obesity categories adopted in 1998 by the National Institute of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:

BMI Classification Level of Health Risk
18.5 – 24.9 Normal weight Minimal/low
25 – 29.9 Overweight Increased
30 – 34.9 Obese High
35 – 39.9 Severely Obese Very High
40 and up Morbidly Obese Extremely High

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