How Does Obesity Affect Your Health

How Does Obesity Affect Your Health

The current perception of obesity is that it is a chronic disease like hypertension or diabetes rather than a simple failure of willpower. Data indicate that Americans once again are gaining weight. The number of overweight males has risen from 24 percent to 32 percent, and the number of overweight females has risen from 27 percent to 35 percent.

Excess body weight carries medical consequences. Obesity increases the risk and the consequences of many other chronic diseases. It significantly increases the workload of the heart, and it coexists with high blood pressure and elevated serum cholesterol. Obesity is related to the onset of diabetes, arthritis, and some forms of cancer. Estimates indicate that obesity is involved in 300,000 premature deaths from all causes each year.

The National Institutes of Health define obesity as 20 percent above desirable weight. Other authorities define it relative to the percent of body weight that consists of fat. This is a more accurate method that provides guidelines for weight loss and weight control. Males are obese when 25 percent or more of their total body weight is in the form of fat. Females are obese when 32 percent or more of their total body weight is in the form of fat.

Excessive fat is a risk, and the manner in which it is distributed also has to be considered. Abdominal fat increases the risk for heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Even as few as 15 extra pounds stored in this pattern increases the risk substantially. A waist circumference of 35 inches or greater for females or 40 inches or greater for males increases the risk for coronary heart disease, and the predictability for heart disease increases when these measurements are coupled with a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or more. Fat that is stored in the hips, buttocks, and thighs presents less of a risk.

Fortunately, obesity is reversible. When the excess weight is lost, the risk subsides.

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