Obesity: A National Epidemic

By every measure, obesity has reached epidemic proportions in America. More than one third of U.S. adults — more than 72 million people —are obese, and more than 15 million people in America are morbidly obese. And, these staggering numbers continue to grow at an alarming rate. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report in which they indicated that an estimated 42% of Americans will be obese by the year 2030. That’s roughly an additional 32 million Americans who will become obese in the next 18-years. Not only that, the proportion of severely obese Americans will reach roughly double the current rate, reaching an astounding 11%.

Obesity is a matter of life and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that obesity-related illness is the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Obesity can take 13 to 20 years off of a person’s life by putting obese people at risk for more than 30 diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Statistics aside, many individuals challenged with obesity suffer from chronic fatigue, and find it difficult to participate in their own lives — both personally and professionally. Many face serious illnesses due to their weight and recognize that their weight gain has shortened their life expectancy. And many struggle with the financial burden of increased medical costs and living expenses.

How is Obesity and Morbid Obesity Actually Defined?

The term, “obesity”, means to have excessive amounts of body fat. A person is considered obese if their current weight is 20% or more over their ideal body weight. If a person weighs 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight, they are considered severely, or morbidly, obese. Morbid obesity is also characterized if a person’s weight is critically affecting their health and significantly shortening their life expectancy.

There are many advanced medical tests to determine if a person is obese or morbidly obese. However, these are costly and are often difficult to administer. One fast and accurate method to ascertain if your current weight puts you at risk for serious health issues is to determine your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a mathematical measurement of your weight in relation to your height, and is used to determine if you are underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, obese or morbidly obese. Check your BMI now with our free online BMI calculator. Where does your BMI fall within the following categories?

  • BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight
  • BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy
  • BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 is considered overweight
  • BMI between 30.0 and 34.9 s considered obese
  • BMI between 35.0 and 39.9 is considered severely obese
  • BMI of 40+ is considered morbidly obese

Note: BMI cannot distinguish between excess fat and muscle. The BMI of an extremely muscular person may be classified as obese, when clearly, he or she is not.

What Causes Obesity and Morbid Obesity?

There are numerous causes for obesity and morbid obesity. These include:

Diet vs. Physical Activity: Consuming more calories from food than expending with physical activity results in weight gain from the stored calories. To maintain a healthy weight balance, you should only consume the necessary amounts of calories needed to support your physical activity level.

Heredity: There are scientific studies that have proven that there can be a link between obesity and heredity. However, many times, it is difficult to distinguish if family-related obesity is due to genetic factors or shared diet and lifestyle habits.

Lifestyle Habits: There are many lifestyle aspects that can negatively affect your weight. Hectic and stressful lifestyles, lack of routine physical exercise and lack of sleep can all contribute to obesity. Choosing to eat out, order “take-out” and purchase foods from vending machines encourages the consumption of larger meals, foods high in fat and foods lower in nutritional value. Also, significant time spent using electronic-based entertainment (i.e. TV, video games, internet, etc.) results in the enjoyment of more stationary activities.

Medical Conditions: There are several illnesses that are associated with, and may lead to, weight gain. These include:Hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This hormone is needed to manage metabolism. Metabolism converts the fuel from food into energy. A lower metabolic rate can result in fatigue, weight gain and depression. Click here for the National Institutes of Health’s detailed explanation of Hypothyroidism.Cushing’s syndrome (or hypercortisolism) – a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This hormone is needed to manage metabolism. Metabolism converts the fuel from food into energy. A lower metabolic rate can result in fatigue, weight gain and depression. Click here for the National Institutes of Health’s detailed explanation of Cushing’s syndrome.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. This hormone is needed to manage metabolism. Metabolism converts the fuel from food into energy. A lower metabolic rate can result in fatigue, weight gain and depression. Click here for the National Institutes of Health’s detailed explanation of PSOC.

Medications: Certain types of drugs — including steroids, antidepressants and medications for psychiatric conditions or seizure disorders — may cause weight gain. These medications can potentially result in a slower metabolism, increased appetite or water retention. If a prescribed medication is causing unwanted weight gain, consult your physician.

What are the Risks Associated with Obesity and Morbid Obesity?

Obesity can affect the quality of life through limited mobility and decreased physical endurance, as well as through social, academic and job discrimination. In addition, obesity can bring on serious health issues and diseases, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Male-related cancers (i.e. colon, rectum or prostate)
  • Female-related cancers (gallbladder, uterine, cervical or ovarian)
  • Dyslipidemia
  • High Cholesterol
  • Osteoarthritis (especially on weight-bearing joints)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn
  • Infertility
  • Urinary stress incontinence
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Lymphedema
  • Depression
  • Premature death — an estimated 300,000 deaths per year may be attributable to obesity

Note: Obesity-related health issues can be reversed with weight loss surgery, combined with healthy eating and lifestyle habits.