Understanding Obesity

“Understanding obesity” is perhaps a bit of an overstatement for this section of our website. After all, the science of comprehending obesity is ever-evolving and expanding – and well beyond the scope of this segment. We can, however, explore some basic issues surrounding obesity, including the magnitude of the problem, the extent of the problem, and even the problems that can stem from the problem.

First, to discuss obesity, we need to establish a common language. A term of particular importance is the body mass index, or “BMI”. The BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat in most people, and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to associated health problems. It is calculated from a person’s height and weight (specifically, as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared).

The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table. Of note, these ranges are based on the relationship between body weight and disease and death.

BMI (kg/m2) Weight Status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 – 34.9 Class 1 Obesity
35.0 – 39.9 Class 2 Obesity
Greater than 40 Class 3 Obesity

It is important to remember that BMI is only one factor related to risk for developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases and your health-care provider will need to perform further assessments to fully develop a risk profile.

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including:

  • High blood glucose (sugar) or diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High blood cholesterol and/or triglycerides (dyslipidemia)
  • Heart attacks (myocardial infarction) due to coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallstones and liver problems
  • Bone and joint problems (such as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease)
  • Stopping breathing during sleep (sleep apnea) and other respiratory problems
  • Some cancers (such as colon, breast, endometrial)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Female infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Depression
  • Migraines
  • Reflux
  • Venous stasis disease
  • Gout

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. When you consider the percent of adults aged 20 years and over who are overweight, including obesity, the number reaches 69.2%. Perhaps more startling is the fact that approximately 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Clearly, obesity is a widespread issue facing many Americans. It is also a costly issue. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight (CDC.gov).

With such an extensive, expensive, and potentially risky problem likely facing you or someone you know, what can be done? Please follow the links “Am I a Candidate?” and “Surgical Options” to find out.

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