is a life threatening disease afflicting the United States at
an alarming rate. A quarter of the population is obese, and
another 97 million Americans are overweight or at risk of becoming
obese. The prevalence of obesity has increased more than 60%
in the past decade. Given this aggressive increase in the rate
of obesity, experts predict that this national health crisis
will only continue to escalate.
Contributing to 300,000 deaths each year, obesity is considered
to be the second leading cause of preventable death after
smoking. In fact, it is more damaging to your health than
smoking and alcohol abuse. In addition, obesity is a major
risk factor for serious medical conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Respiratory problems
- Joint pain
The cost of this serious disease is enormous, with an estimated
annual treatment cost in excess of $238 billion, of which
roughly $100 billion is devoted
to treating related health problems. Additionally, Americans
spend $33 billion each year on weight- loss products and services.
The most common measurement for obesity is the Body Mass Index
(BMI). BMI is the body weight in kilograms divided by the
square of the height in meters. While BMI does not actually
measure body fat, it tends to correlate well with the degree
of obesity. Thus it should not be used alone for diagnosis,
but can be useful as a general guideline.
The BMI calculation cannot distinguish between body fat and
muscle. This could cause a very muscular person to be mistakenly
classified as obese. For this reason, your physician should
always consider your individual case.
The obesity categories adopted in 1998 by the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) are:
- BMI 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 - Overweight
- BMI 30 to 34.9 kg/m2 - Obese
- BMI 35 to 39.9 kg/m2 - Severely Obese
- BMI 40 kg/m2 and up - Morbidly Obese
THE THREAT OF MORBID OBESITY
The Morbid Obesity category represents individuals who carry
the largest and most dangerous amount of excess body weight.
In simple terms, it is defined as:
- BMI > 40 or
- Weighing at least twice the ideal weight or at least 100
pounds more than the ideal weight.
Morbid obesity greatly increases the chance of developing
health conditions that can result in significant physical,
mental, and social disabilities. It can also cause death.
Individuals with a BMI of 35 or more with obesity-related
health problems may be considered candidates for obesity surgery.
Obesity is not a sign that a person is out of control. Many
things can lead to this chronic disease, such as:
- Energy balance- Taking too much energy from food
that is in excess of what the body needs can lead to weight
gain, depending on individual metabolism and activity level.
- Hereditary- If others in your family are obese,
you have a higher risk for obesity.
- Metabolic disorders- Changes in metabolism, or
how your body gets energy from food, may affect your energy
balance and your weight.
- Eating and social habits- Eating an unbalanced
diet, snacking between meals, and not getting enough exercise
may all contribute to obesity.
- Psychological factors- Social or emotional eating
is also one or the main causes of gaining excess weight.
Any one or a combination of these factors can lead to obesity.
As science continues to search for answers, morbidly obese
individuasl must understand how to treat their condition in
the most effective way.