Obesity Rates, Tests, Health Risks and How to Lose Weight

Obesity has become one of the leading health concerns in the United States, accounting in part for the majority of deaths as a result of its contribution to heart disease, strokes and diabetes. More than one-third of American adults are obese but overall two-thirds are above a healthy body weight (overweight and obese combined). Obesity is classified as a disease in the USA and one of the main health problems affecting Americans today.

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What is obesity?

The concept of obesity is still largely misunderstood. Many people think that a person who is very ‘fat’ is obese. While this is often the case, obesity can be more clearly defined by measuresments such as the body mass index. Obesity is technically a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more. However, body mass index (BMI) alone can sometimes be inaccurate in determining obesity.

Therefore obesity should be considered from the perspective of many indicators. BMI is one indicator of obesity. Body fat percentage is another and is measured by calipers. Lastly, the waist to hip ratio is also a helpful indicator of obesity. If these three tests indicate obesity then a person in all likelihood is obese and has to take the relevant steps to lose weight and body fat  specifically.

Rates of Obesity

The obesity rate varies in different countries. However, obesity is still on the rise in developed nations. In the United States approximately 36% of adults and 17% of children are obese. With regards to children, as many as 25% of American children are overweight and obese. As many as 1 in 5 deaths in the United States are now associated with obesity. This number is higher in women than in men.

Tests for Obesity

Body Mass Index

Body mass index (BMI) is the ratio between weight and height. It is calculated by dividing the weight of the person by their height squared.  A BMI of 30 or more is considered to be obese while a BMI of 40 or more is considered to be morbidly obese. Super obese is another category for people with a BMI of 50 or more. Although the body mass index (BMI) is used as the global standard for determining obesity, it is by no means infallible.

Body Fat Percentage

Body fat percentage is more widely used these days alongside the body mass index (BMI). While some body fat is considered to be normal and acceptable, excess fat is a problem. The methods of measuring body fat percentage can vary great with technology now providing a more accurate assessment. A body fat percentage of 25% and more in males or 32% and more in females is considered to be obesity.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

The waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is another useful and effective way of establishing health risks associated with excess body fat. It is calculated by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference to derive the ration. The results of this measurement should be considered alongside the body mass index (BMI) when confirming obesity. A waist-to-hip ratio higher than 0.90 in males and 0.85 in females is considered to be an indicator of obesity.

Health Risks of Being Obese

The health risks associated with obesity is well known these days. Health authorities across the globe have embarked on awareness programs about obesity in an attempt to curb its detrimental effects. The spotlight on obesity in the past 20 to 30 years means that just about every adult know that there are significant health dangers by being obese. However, this does not seem to have halted the rise in obesity particularly in developed nations.

Cardiovascular Disease

The most well known health risk associated with obesity is cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease, heart attacks and stroke. These conditions are often preceded by hypertension (high blood pressure) and elevated blood cholesterol levels, both of which are linked to obesity.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a growing problem in developed nations and obesity is one of the main risk factors. Not only does obesity contribute to diabetes but it also hampers the management of diabetes. In turn, long standing and poorly managed diabetes can then contribute to cardiovascular diseases mentioned above.

Cancer

Some cancers appear to be linked to obesity. In these conditions being obese does not cause the cancer but rather it increases the risk of developing the cancer. Studies have shown that obesity is a risk in the development of cancer of the colon, esophagus, kidneys and uterus, among other malignancies.

Other

Obesity is known to cause or contribute to the development of other conditions, including:

  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Sleep apnea

Medical research is revealing more about the health risks of obesity on an almost daily basis. Obesity is believed to be associated with man more conditions although conclusive evidence in terms of research studies is still lacking. However, the medical fraternity is in agreement that being obese lowers quality of life, increases the risk of various diseases and reduces lifespan. It is therefore understandable as to why it is considered to be a disease.

How To Lose Weight

The approach to losing weight has stayed relatively constant despite the ongoing rise in obesity rates. Research has shed light on additional aspects but the basics of weight loss remains unchanged. The key to weight loss revolves around calories – reducing the input calories (food) while increasing the output calories (exercise). Obesity largely arises with either increased calorie input or decreased calorie output, or both.

In other words, weight gain and eventually obesity occurs with eating too many calories and expending too few calories with physical activity. A diet that can lower the input calories and an exercise program that increases output calories is essential for weight loss. Other aspects like glycemic index as well as protein and carbohydrate intake also play an important role in weight loss.

It is advisable that any obese person wanting to lose weight should first consult with a medical professional. The weight loss program should involve multiple practitioners, including a general practitioner or medical specialist as well as a dietitian among other professionals. In certain cases, weight loss drugs and even weight loss surgery may be considered.

References:

  1. emedicine.medscape.com/article/123702-overview
  2. www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html