The CDC reports, “Obesity is epidemic in the United States today and a major cause of death, attributable to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.” Approximately one out of three adults and one in six children in the U.S. are obese, costing $150 billion per year or 10% of the U.S. medical budget.
What is Considered Obese?
Doctors use BMI (Body mass index), a measure of body fat based on height and weight, to determine if someone is overweight or obese. For adults, a healthy BMI is 18.5 to less than 25. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is deemed to be obese. Here is a free BMI percentile calculator.
What are the Causes of Obesity?
In its simplest form, the cause of obesity is consuming more calories than your body uses. In other words, someone who is obese (or overweight) is consuming too many calories or not burning enough calories. However, it is more complicated than that.
Between 1999/2000 and 2017/2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%. The CDC reports that societal, economic, and cultural conditions are contributing to the rise in obesity. We’re surrounded by food. We’re eating out more and consuming larger portions and more calories. The food in restaurants, snack shops, and vending machines is typically higher in sugar, calories, and fat than what we make at home.
Factors that can lead to obesity or weight gain include:
- Some illnesses
- Some medications
- Not enough sleep
- High amounts of stress
- Lack of physical activity
- Unhealthy eating behaviors
What are the Dangers of Obesity?
The CDC reports that obesity has been associated with several leading causes of death in the U.S. and around the world. Obese people have an increased risk for several serious diseases and health conditions:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Many types of cancers
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness, including depression and anxiety
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
What Can We do to Lower the Risk of Obesity?
While some risk factors can’t be changed, the good news is that there are some that you can change, such as creating a healthier lifestyle that combines healthy eating and regular physical activity.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides the following guidelines for physical activity:
- A minimum of two hours and 30 minutes to five hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise or one hour and 15 minutes to two hours and 30 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. Or a combination of the two, and it’s best to spread that exercise throughout the week.
- Muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
Important Note: Before starting any weight-loss program, always consult with a health care provider who can 1) help determine a healthy weight for you, 2) help identify whether behaviors, illnesses, medications, and/or psychological factors may be making it more difficult for you to lose or maintain your weight, and 3) help ensure that you lose weight safely.
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