The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 63% of Americans are overweight, and more than 30% are obese or morbidly obese. For African Americans and Hispanic Americans, the statistics are even higher.
In addition to the social stigma and self-esteem issues attached to being severely overweight, obesity is linked to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, lung/respiratory disease, osteoarthritis, some forms of cancer, depression and more. Obesity-and obesity-related health problems-are blamed for over 400,000 deaths in the United States every year.
Obesity is defined by the amount of body fat a person has (since bone and muscle density also contribute to weight), and it is most commonly measured by a method called the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI does not measure fat per se; instead, it is a calculation that considers a person's weight in relation to his or her height. BMI is the same for men and women; there are not separate, gender-specific scales.
- Overweight: The National Institutes of Health have determined that a person with a BMI of 25 or greater is considered to be overweight, and susceptible to weight-related health problems.
- Obesity: A person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered to be obese, and at significantly greater risk for serious health problems (often referred to as "co-morbid" conditions), including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, lung/respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, some forms of cancer, and even premature death.
- Morbid Obesity: A person who is at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight, who has a BMI of 35 or greater with at least one co-morbid condition, or who has a BMI of 40 or greater is considered to be morbidly obese. In addition to the risks listed for those who are obese, morbidly obese individuals often have trouble with basic functions such as breathing and walking.
BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. In the U.S., tables have been developed that convert this formula into pounds and inches. So, for example, a person who is 70 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds would have a BMI of 23 and would be considered to be normal weight. A person who is 70 inches tall and weighs 195 pounds would have a BMI of 28 and would be considered to be overweight. If that same person weighed 230 pounds, he or she would be considered to be obese.
Medical problems associated with obesity and being overweight include, but are not limited to, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, stroke, osteoarthritis and joint pain, gallbladder disease, respiratory/lung disease (including sleep apnea), depression, some forms of cancer (breast, colorectal, endometrial, and kidney), acid reflux (GERD), urinary incontinence, fertility issues, and shortened lifespan.