To define what obesity means today, we can’t count on a dictionary. However, since obesity has become a growing national health problem in the U.S., it has perhaps never been more important that we have a working definition that we can all agree on.
In order to understand how someone is categorized as overweight or obese, the world’s health organizations have adopted the use of body mass index (BMI) to classify and communicate about body weight. BMI is a widely recognized weight-for-height index.
Unfortunately, this index does not quantify total body fat or convey information concerning regional distribution of fat — both of which are key to how obesity affects health. Nonetheless, BMI is an easily obtained measure that has been recommended for use in all age groups. Most clinical studies assessing the health effects of overweight and obesity rely on BMI.
Currently, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization use the same measures of BMI for defining overweight.
- If BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
- If BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.
Since BMI describes body weight relative to height, it correlates strongly (in adults) with total body fat content. However, some very muscular people may have a high BMI without undue health risks.
Obesity is often from a combination of factors, based on both genetics and behavior. Accordingly, treating obesity usually requires more than just dietary changes.
Being overweight is a significant contributor to health problems. It increases the risk of developing a number of diseases including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
- Cancer (certain forms such as cancer of the prostate and cancer of the colon and rectum)
- Gallstones and gall bladder disease
- Gout and arthritis
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) of the knees, hips, and the lower back
- Sleep apnea
Ideally, health-oriented definitions of overweight and obesity should be used that are based on the amount of excess body fat that puts an individual at a higher risk for health problems. Unfortunately, no such definition currently exists. Health risks associated with increasing weight are part of a continuum. People can have weight-associated health problems at BMIs lower than 25, and others can have no identifiable health problems at BMIs significantly greater than 25.
Easily determine your BMI with this free calculator: http://bit.ly/1D0ZqDv.
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